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Temporary Disability Options

Temporary Disability Options

When discussing Social Security Disability, people often wonder whether short-term disabilities qualify for benefits. The short answer is no, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are not available for short-term disabilities. According to Social Security Administration (SSA), your disability must be expected to last at least twelve consecutive months.

There is one exception to that general rule for closed periods of disability. There are instances where you meet SSA’s definition of disability for at least twelve consecutive months, but your condition eventually improves. In these cases, you can qualify for disability benefits, but you will only receive them for as long as your disability lasts.

Alternatively, if your condition has improved by the time you are approved for disability benefits, you will receive benefits for the period of time that you were disabled. SSA periodically reviews cases to ensure beneficiaries still meet the federal definition of disability; if someone does not, his or her benefits will be terminated. Closed periods of disability can only be awarded by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at a disability hearing.

Despite SSA’s prohibition against temporary disability benefits, other options may be available in the event that you suffered a disabling injury or illness, but your inability to work did not last long enough to qualify for SSA’s programs.

One of the most common alternatives to Social Security Disability benefits is workers’ compensation. If your injury or illness occurred while at work and on the job, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Notify your employer immediately upon becoming aware of the illness or injury, and work with the necessary parties, such as human resources, to file the paperwork.

Another option is short-term disability. The purpose of short-term disability is to provide income compensation or income replacement for a brief period of time during which a non-job-related illness or injury keeps you unable to work. After that limited time period, you should be able to return to your normal job and work your normal duties.

Short-term disability, however, does not provide job protection. Unless you go out on disability through the Family Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, which are federally-protected disability leave programs, your employer is legally able to terminate you while you are receiving disability benefits.

You may be able to receive state-funded temporary disability insurance through your employer if you live in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island. In these states, a short-term disability insurance plan must be offered by employers as a job benefit.

Although specific requirements vary by state, they are generally similar. You must have worked a certain length of time before becoming eligible for the benefit, usually ranging from thirty days to six months. Some states have minimum earnings requirements as well. There is a short waiting period before benefits are payable, and benefits typically last no more than twenty-six to thirty weeks. The weekly benefit payment is approximately 60% of your wages. You will also need to submit medical records or undergo a medical examination to prove that you are disabled.

If your employer does not offer a short-term disability insurance benefit, you do have the option to pay for one yourself, but it can be prohibitively expensive for many people. For most private plans, expect to pay between one and three percent of your annual gross income. If you are interested in purchasing a private short-term disability plan, visit an agent authorized to sell short-term disability insurance in your state.

It is important to remember that short-term disability plans do not have a set definition of “disability.” You should examine your policy carefully to see which conditions do and do not qualify you for disability benefits, but most policies cover issues like back problems, accident injuries, and arthritis.

Should your illness or injury persist for an extended period of time, and you believe you may exceed short-term disability benefits protections, talk to a Social Security Disability attorney and see if your condition might qualify you for SSDI or SSI benefits. The application and approval process takes a great deal of time, so it helps to start sooner rather than later.