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Can You Apply for Disability While On FMLA?

By January 4, 2022May 21st, 20244 min read

Facing a serious medical condition or assisting a loved one through their medical issues can be incredibly stressful. While qualified employees can temporarily step away from their jobs without fear of employer retaliation through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), serious financial implications can follow. You may be wondering if you can apply for disability while on FMLA. Fortunately, replacing income through disability may be possible while using FMLA benefits.

What Is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a piece of federal legislation enacted to assist employees facing personal or family health complications. The policy ensures eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year without facing penalties or termination from their employer. During this time, those who use FMLA benefits can focus on their health without worrying about workplace responsibilities.

What Are the Qualifications for FMLA?

To be eligible for FMLA, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. They also must work at a company location with over 50 employees within 75 miles. Situations where an eligible employee can use FMLA benefits include:

  • Delivering and caring for a newborn child
  • Caring for an adopted or foster child
  • Caring for an immediate family member, such as a spouse, child, or parent, with a serious health condition
  • Being unable to work because of a severe health condition

Earning Income While on FMLA

To replace your income while on FMLA, you will likely need private disability insurance. Some states provide long-term paid time off while protecting your job, but you will likely only receive a percentage of your usual pay. The following jurisdictions have passed some kind of state-funded paid family and medical leave laws:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Can I Apply For Disability While On FMLA?

As mentioned, you will likely need private disability insurance to replace your income while on FMLA if you do not live in a jurisdiction with paid leave. A short-term disability (STD) insurance policy will provide you with somewhere between 40 and 60% of your typical earnings. These benefits last anywhere from a few months to a year. STD has a shorter elimination period than long-term disability. Elimination periods are time-based deductibles and ensure there’s a period of time between when you become injured or ill and when you can start collecting insurance benefits. You can start to receive these benefits while you are still on FMLA.

A private long-term disability (LTD) insurance policy will replace about 60% of your pre-tax wages for up to a number of years. Your policy will specify benefit limits. If your disability extends past the FMLA period, you will start receiving LTD benefits as long as your elimination period ends around the same time. LTD benefit elimination periods vary per policy, though on average they last between three and six months.

Can You Get FMLA and Disability at the Same Time?

You are eligible to receive either LTD or STD insurance benefits as long as you meet the insurance carrier’s definition of disability. Conditions like pregnancy and childbirth are usually covered under these terms. Unfortunately, there are many situations covered by FMLA that are not covered by LTD and STD insurance plans, including caring for an adopted child, because you are considered physically able to work. Similarly, FMLA covers you in the event of a pre-existing condition, but private disability insurance policies can exclude you from coverage on that basis.

Can I Apply For SSDI While On FMLA?

If you are using FMLA for an injury or illness expected to be completely disabling for at least twelve months, you should consider applying for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). You need to have worked a certain number of years to qualify, along with meeting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability, but if you are awarded benefits, you will receive payments to partially offset your lost income. You can apply for SSDI benefits as soon as you become disabled, but you cannot collect benefits while you are still on FMLA leave.