Whether you're eligible for short-term (temporary) disability benefits depends on where you live—only a few states offer a state short-term disability program.
But if your injury or illness is work-related, you might be eligible for short-term disability benefits through your state's workers' compensation system. And many employers purchase private disability insurance for their employees, which usually includes short-term disability (STD) coverage. Social Security doesn't provide any short-term disability benefits, through either its SSI or SSDI programs.
If you're temporarily unable to work due to sickness, injury, or pregnancy, you might qualify for short-term disability benefits, whether through your state's short-term disability program or workers' comp system, or a private policy offered by your employer.
Short-term disability benefits are typically about 60 percent of your regular wages for a period lasting from about three to six months (or more, depending on your policy). A waiting period of a week or so usually applies, meaning you won't be eligible for benefits until about a week after your injury or illness occurs.
To qualify for short-term disability benefits, you must be unable to do your job, and your doctor must document this in writing. Common reasons that people qualify for short-term disability benefits include:
Illnesses that qualify for short-term disability benefits can be any sickness that prevents work and that lasts longer than a week. Examples include COVID, cancer, mononucleosis, strep throat, pneumonia, digestive disorders,
Many private STD plans don't cover cosmetic surgery or other surgeries that might be considered "elective," such as gastric bypass surgery. (Read our article on when surgeries are considered medically necessary.) And some private policies have a waiting period during which they won't cover surgeries for pre-existing conditions.
Work injuries don't qualify for short-term disability benefits; workers' comp policies, which are required in almost all states for almost all businesses, cover work-related injuries.
To apply for short-term disability benefits from the insurance company, you'll need to follow a few steps:
The only states that have state short-term disability programs are:
Follow the above links for more information on each state's program.
A few states offer temporary disability assistance to low-income people in other ways. For instance, Maryland's Temporary Disability Assistance Program offers cash and medical and housing assistance.
A number of states (and the District of Columbia) also offer paid family and medical leave programs, including:
The rest of this article discusses the state temporary disability programs (abbreviated as TDI, for temporary disability insurance, or SDI, for state disability insurance) funded by payroll deductions.
State temporary disability benefits are usually easier to get than Social Security disability. In the states that provide for short-term disability, here are some general requirements that apply to all of the states.
For information on your state's specific eligibility rules, see our article on eligibility for state temporary disability benefits.
To file a claim, call or go to the website of your state's department of labor or employment development department to get the application form. Your company's human resources department may also be able to provide you with one. Complete your section of the form and give the form to your employer and/or doctor to complete the remainder.
State short-term disability programs offer wage replacement but they offer little to no job protection. You must apply for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or a state medical leave law—or rely on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—to ensure your employer will take you back after a period of disability. Read our article on keeping your job after disability leave for more information.
Most people can file a short-term disability claim without the help of an attorney. These claims tend to cost less for insurance companies and states and are often more straightforward than long-term disability claims. But you should still consider hiring an attorney if your claim is denied, or if you have a long-term disability or Social Security disability claim in addition to your short-term claim. Most disability lawyers offer free consultations and don't charge a fee unless you win your case.
Updated October 29, 2021
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