Short-term disability insurance (SDI) can be used to continue receiving at least a portion of regular wages even though you’re not working, for a variety of reasons. It could cover your pay during an extended illness or a surgical procedure and recovery period, for example, or it could be used during a portion of pregnancy and for several weeks after childbirth (i.e. maternity leave). It might also cover leave for a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.
However, because it is short-term disability, it generally doesn’t extend beyond a year, if that long. Duration and type of benefits may depend on the laws in your state of residence, as well as your form of employment and the reason for leave.
How do you get short-term disability insurance? Most people have access to SDI benefits through an employer-sponsored program. In some cases, employers pay for all or part of SDI premiums as part of a benefits package, but a portion of each employee paycheck may also be deducted automatically for SDI. In the case of freelance or self-employed workers, they must elect to pay into the system on their own.
What about those who don’t work, though, like stay-home parents? Can spouses receive short-term disability benefits through a husband’s or wife’s insurance?
Policies Pertain to One Person Only
Unfortunately, short-term disability insurance does not cover spouses, children, other family members, or anyone besides the policyholder. Short-term disability is intended to replace the income (or a portion of income) for the person who is working.
If a spouse is working, he/she should be able to dedicate a portion of his/her salary to paying SDI premiums, thus gaining individual coverage for qualifying short-term leave from work. If a spouse is not working, he/she has no income to replace, and most children don’t have income.
In other words, it’s not like health insurance, where benefits can be extended to cover family members like a spouse or children. The only person covered is the policyholder and the coverage applies only to the income that person earns.
There are some states that provide for spousal care indirectly through SDI plans. In such cases, SDI coverage could be used in circumstances where a working spouse must take family medical leave to care for a spouse (or child, or other family member) that is ill or injured. In this way, both spouses are receiving some kind of benefit, even though only the policyholder continues to receive pay.
Another indirect benefit a spouse may receive from SDI is coverage for child support. If an SDI policyholder is unable to work and ends up on short-term disability leave, a portion of SDI funds may be used to pay child support obligations.
Of course, this is not wage garnishment, and a spouse caring for children should not expect direct payments from SDI claims. If an ex-spouse receiving SDI benefits stops making required child support payments, the spouse caring for children will still have to go through legal channels to secure payment.
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