Most people understand the term “disability” and what it means, especially as related to workplace injuries or illnesses. Essentially, something has happened to you that renders you unable to work at a particular job as you once could. However, there are two different disability types: long-term and short-term.
Long-term disability refers to situations where a person cannot recover from the injury or illness that has sidelined them from their current job. These situations are unfortunate, and when they happen, the afflicted individual will doubtless appreciate that long-term disability exists. That monthly check will help them pay for medical bills, childcare, food, utility bills, and the rent or mortgage.
Short-term disability, by contrast, is available to some individuals who get sick or injure themselves, but the doctors expect them to recover at some point. If you do happen to fall into this second category, it pays to know a little about how short-term disability benefits work and whether or not you are eligible for them.
Let’s get into that in a bit more detail now.
How Long Can You Get Short-Term Disability Payments?
In most circumstances, if you get sick or injure yourself, you can collect short-term disability benefits for 12 months. It is not inconceivable that you might continue collecting benefits after that, but a doctor will need to evaluate you to determine your continued eligibility. There are also certain other factors that might come into play.
The amount of cash you can obtain each month depends primarily on your income before you injured yourself or contracted the illness that prevents you from working. The other thing it’s essential for you to understand about a short-term disability policy is that most employers need to have one. If they neglect to provide you with a short-term disability policy, the federal and state governments can come after them and penalize them with heavy fines.
What Conditions Does Short-Term Disability Cover?
If you get sick or hurt yourself, the insurance provider will judge whether or not to pay you on a case-by-case basis. In other words, they’re likely going to send an insurance adjuster and have their own doctors look you over to see if they deem you worthy of getting that monthly check from them.
If you have neck, back, hand, or knee issues from which the doctors expect you to recover, you can probably collect short-term disability for those. Diabetes and related issues usually qualify you, and cancer does as well.
If you contract Lyme Disease, you should be able to collect it. Migraines, fibromyalgia, or various gastrointestinal problems will also mean short-term disability payments are in your future, again assuming that the company providing the policy concurs with what your doctor initially said.
Can You Get One of These Policies on Your Own?
You might wonder if you can get your own short-term disability policy, in addition to the one that your employer offers when you sign up and start working for the company. The answer is yes, you certainly can get an additional policy.
It is often a smart idea to do so. If you have the money for it, having that safety net in place can prove advantageous if the unexpected occurs.
If you have a family, that should be a strong incentive for you to go ahead and get one of these additional policies. Many of them will only cost a few dollars per month, and it’s well worth paying for it when you think about your dependents, like a spouse or your children. You will still need to provide for them, even as you are on the shelf, recovering.
Employer-Provided Short-Term Disability Benefit Facts
If you sign up with a new company and talk to them about the various insurance varieties they provide, they will probably speak to you about the initial enrollment period. You don’t just automatically get this policy the first day you start work.
Instead, you must sign up during the company-designated enrollment period. This usually happens only once per year, though some companies give you a chance to sign up when you first start working there, even if that is a different time of year from when they offer the other workers this chance.
You’ll want to talk to the human resources department about all this. They can show you all the paperwork and explain to you how to fill it out.
That’s useful since this process can sometimes be laborious and tedious. It’s something you need to do, though, so bear with it and ask any questions if you come to an obscurely worded part.
Minimum Service Period
The other thing you should definitely keep in mind if you’re relying strictly on your employer for a short-term disability policy is that there is what businesses and insurance companies call a minimum service period. This is the minimum amount of time that you must work for a business before you are eligible for short-term disability payments if you get sick or hurt yourself.
How long that period is varies by company, and also the policy that the business has in place. When you sign up for the coverage with HR, you should ask them how long that period is.
The Pay Cap
One other thing you should know is the payment cap that’s in place with each policy. Regardless of how much your regular salary is, if you get sick or hurt yourself and you need to rely on that short-term disability check to pay for your essentials, there is a maximum cash amount you can get. That is true with the most menial workers, and even for the company higher-ups, like the CEO or CFO.
Now, you know a bit about how short-term disability insurance works. You should try to get a job at a company that has a robust policy in place, but you may also want to consider getting your own policy. That way, you are doubly protected against mishaps and illnesses.