What is Short-Term Disability?

January 10, 2019

Category: Compliance

short-term disability

Many employers will encounter short- and long-term disability insurance at some point. Parsing out which conditions qualify for which program and the differences between long-term and short-term disability is not exactly intuitive. Nor is understanding how disability insurance fits in with the Family Medical Leave Act.

The stress of navigating disability leave is no reason to pass up a benefit that you both qualify for and are entitled to just because it seems complicated. We’re here to help you with the basics of disability, so that you can familiarize yourself and start taking the necessary steps as soon as possible.

What conditions qualify for short-term disability?

When it comes to what qualifies for short-term disability, it depends largely on the specific plan you have. But, as Aetna explains, disability benefits will be paid in the unfortunate case that you become disabled, in accordance with your insurance plan’s definition of disability. In order to receive these benefits, you must meet specific requirements under the plan and remain disabled throughout the elimination period that precedes the disbursement of the benefits. As a rule of thumb for filing, Aetna suggests filing the claim, “as soon as you or your doctor thinks that your disability will last at least as long as the elimination period. You don’t have to wait until the elimination period has passed to file.”

What is covered under short-term disability?

While the specific coverage of a short term disability plan can vary, there are a handful of common short-term disability claims such as pregnancy, injuries, complications from pregnancy, digestive disorders, back disorders, and cancer.

Before you receive disability benefits you must go through a waiting or elimination period. While the duration of this period varies depending on the plan, it generally lasts anywhere from 0 to 14 days.

How long can you be on disability leave?

Short-term disability policies typically last between three months to six months, but it’s possible for them to extend for up to two years. Most short-term disability plans have a cap, which is essentially the maximum number of days that you can be on short-term disability each month.

Long-term disability, however, has an elimination period of at least 90 days. After which, benefits are paid over a longer duration of time, often between two, five, or 10 years; up to age 65; and in extreme cases for life, depending on the specifics of the policy.

How does FMLA work with disability?

The Family Medical Leave Act protects your job in the event that you need to take time off for medical reasons related to you or your family, but it doesn’t stipulate that you are required to be paid. If you’re taking FMLA leave you can get paid through short-term disability during this time, provided that the reason you’re taking FMLA leave qualifies for short-term disability coverage.


Cinnamon Janzer is a journalist and content writer based in Minneapolis. Her first job was at a buffet in Mandan, North Dakota which was just as lowbrow as it sounds. Read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.

Category: Compliance

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