There are times in life when injury or illness makes it impossible to work over a short period of time. Unfortunately, your bills still need to be paid even if you’re sick and not working. An inability to pay could leave you buried in debt, forced to stop buying necessities including prescriptions or food, and could even leave you homeless and destitute when you’re at your lowest. In other words, you still need money to pay your bills and stay financially afloat even though you are unable to work and earn your regular income. Short-term disability, in the simplest sense, is a solution to this problem. Short-term disability insurance is designed to act as a substitute for your income when you are incapable of working for an amount of time that is less than one year due to a qualifying disability.
How does it work? First you should determine whether or not you already have short-term disability insurance. If you receive benefits through your employer, you can speak with a representative from your Human Resources (HR) department. These professionals should be able to tell you what your benefits package entails. If you have health insurance through the healthcare marketplace or a private insurance company, you will need to get in touch with your insurance provider to find out if short-term disability coverage is included in your policy, and, if not, how much it will cost to add it to your plan. Keep in mind that the amount you pay toward this policy will determine how much of a payout you receive if and when you utilize your short-term disability benefit.
If it is not already included in your benefits package form your employer, you should determine whether or not adding short-term disability insurance coverage is right for you. In some cases, your accrued sick time or paid vacation days may suffice to cover an absence from work, therefore ensuring you suffer no gap in earnings as you recuperate from illness or injury. The time available to you may not be enough, in which case adding short-term disability to your insurance plan would be a wise financial decision. Short-term disability is intended to cover disabilities resulting from illness and injury unrelated to your job or even in some instances to care for a sick loved one.
If, for example, you are diagnosed with cancer and unable to work during treatment, or if you break your leg falling off a ladder while cleaning your rain gutters, you may file for short-term disability. These scenarios are not linked to your job and are likely to require a longer period of recuperation than your average accrued sick leave and vacation time will cover, but you probably won’t need more than a year to heal and get back to work.
For your payments to be processed, you’ll likely be required to provide medical documentation of your condition, including an estimate from your doctor(s) regarding recovery time. You might also have to provide reports on a regular basis in order to continue receiving short-term disability coverage as you recuperate. In addition, you should be aware that there could be a short gap between the time you leave work and the time you begin receiving benefits, and you will probably only receive a percentage of your regular wages (generally about 2/3 of your salary, although the number varies). That said, short-term disability benefits could help you to stay afloat while you recover from disability.
Be sure to find out from your HR representative or your insurance provider if you are eligible for this coverage as part of your policy and if not, how to add it to your benefits package – it could just mean the difference between financial stability and financial ruin due to an illness or injury.