Short term disability ensures you aren't left in the lurch when you can't clock in. It's a type of insurance that covers you financially if you're too ill or injured to work. Depending on the policy, disability will pay you a part of your income (usually around 60% of your base salary, sometimes as much as 80%) in weekly or monthly installments for a period of up to 12 months.
In this article, we’ll review everything from what qualifies for a claim to how long short term disability lasts once you’re on it.
How Does Short Term Disability Work?
To take advantage of short term disability, you'll first need to enroll in a plan. Most likely, you'll get it through your employer as part of their benefits package. If your employer doesn't offer short term disability, though, or if you'd just like some supplemental coverage, you can also purchase an individual plan through an insurer or licensed insurance agent.
How Do I Qualify for Short Term Disability Benefits?
By definition, short term disability covers temporary illnesses and injuries that prevent you from working. It doesn't just kick in when you need five days off to deal with the flu, though. To qualify for short term disability, you're going to need a medical professional to verify that you are unable to do your job. The insurer won't approve your claim without a statement from a healthcare provider.
Most non-work-related temporary injuries are covered by short term disability, but it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with what isn't covered.
Short Term Disability Will Not Cover:
Work-related injuries, that is, injuries you got on the job, are covered by worker’s compensation, not short term disability
Injuries or illnesses lasting longer than 6 - 12 months or particularly severe conditions are typically handed by long term disability or Social Security disability
Intentionally self-inflicted injuries
Injuries sustained while committing a crime, such as drunk driving
Recovery after surgeries that weren’t medically necessary, like purely cosmetic surgeries
Pre-existing conditions, like cancer or arthritis
Anything else on the plan’s exclusion list -- so read those plan details!
So, What Does Short Term Disability Cover?
You can probably guess the answer to this one: it depends on the policy. However, there are a few things that one can reasonably assume will be covered:
Pregnancy and pregnancy complications, including recovery after C-sections
Recovery after surgery, like a back or foot surgery that leaves you laid up
Joint or back disorders
Short-term illnesses, like COVID-19
Mental health issues, such as depression
How Long Does Short Term Disability Last?
After your claim has been approved, you’ll begin receiving benefits after an elimination period has elapsed. The disability elimination period is a span of time where you are injured, ill, or otherwise disabled but do not receive benefits. How long the elimination period is depends on the plan. 7 and 14 days are both common.
Once the elimination period has ended, you’ll start receiving benefits, but for how long? You can expect short term disability to last anywhere from 1 to 6 months, though some plans will cover your income for up to a year. How long you can be on short term disability depends on your individual policy. Thankfully, that elimination period isn’t counted toward your days receiving benefits.
Does Disability Continue After Termination?
If you’ve lost your job while on disability, get in contact with the insurer. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not the monthly premium is being paid, although there are some exceptions. Rarely, and particularly in the case of long term disability, if you are terminated for cause, you may become ineligible to receive benefits.
How Do I Apply For Short-Term Disability?
Get started on your claim as soon as possible after you know you’ll need to go on disability. The sooner the better, since you’ll be more likely to meet claim deadlines, and will start receiving your benefits sooner than if you had waited. Make sure your healthcare provider has thoroughly documented your disability, too. Be honest about your symptoms, because the insurer is going to review your medical records.