Long-Term vs. Short-Term Disability

When someone is afflicted with a disability, either as a result of a work-related injury, a mental illness or terminal disease, finances are a major concern. Medical bills pile up. Rent and mortgage still needs to be paid. Food still needs to be on the table.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our experienced Massachusetts disability attorneys work to find solutions to these concerns, by helping our clients navigate the public and private benefits systems.

Depending on underlying circumstances, there may be multiple avenues of compensation available to those afflicted. Long-term disability benefits and short-term disability benefits could be available in various forms. It’s important to consider the types of benefits best suited to each situation and also how collection of one benefit could impact others.

Typically, a short-term disability prevents a person from working for under a year, while long-term disability results in loss of critical function or inability to work for a time frame that extends beyond 12 months.

Short-Term Disability Benefits Options

When a wage-earner is disabled even for a few months, it can have a snowball effect on a family’s finances.

Unfortunately, there is no federal program for short-term disability benefits, as neither Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) nor Supplemental Security Income (SSI) covers short-term ailments. Further, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does NOT offer temporary disability benefits to residents who lack disability insurance.

Worse, the state doesn’t require businesses to offer temporary disability insurance or mandatory sick time to employees.

That’s why it’s very important for workers to plan ahead for this possibility. Consider the Social Security Administration’s estimate that 1 in 4 workers who are 20 right now will become disabled for at least some period of time before they retire. Further, 1 in 8 workers will be disabled for 5 years or more during their career. Planning for this possibility is critical.

There are basically two kinds of short-term disability benefits that may be available:

  • Workers’ compensation (when workers are injured on-the-job).
  • Short-term disability payments from a private insurance policy.

In some cases, workers may also be able to piece together a plan to get by using the federal protection of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and accrued sick leave and vacation time. Of course, that depends on whether the worker is eligible for FMLA and has that accrued time available.

Workers’ compensation is available to employees who are injured in the course and scope of employment. Benefits in this case could be short-term or long-term, depending on the person’s condition. Based on the extent of the disability, workers can have their medical bills covered and additional benefits may be paid for:

  • Temporary Total Incapacity
  • Partial Incapacity
  • Permanent and Total Incapacity
  • Permanent Loss of Function and Disfigurement
  • Survivors’ and Dependents

Those that apply to short-term injuries are temporary total incapacity and partial incapacity, though these may in some cases extend past the one-year mark.

Private insurance for short-term disability, meanwhile, is purchased either through an employer insurance policy or separately by the individual. Usually, these policies are obtained as part of an employee benefit package. In this case, information can be obtained from your company’s human resources representative.

Usually, these policies provide coverage for up to six months of time off work. Workers typically will recover a portion of their regular income in order to meet basic living expenses. But of course, these polices have to be purchased prior to the worker becoming disabled in order to be effective.

In cases where a worker has been denied short-term disability benefits through workers’ compensation or a private insurer, it can be beneficial to consult with a disability attorney to determine whether further action is advisable.

Long-Term Disability Benefit Options

At the federal level, there are two types of programs available to assist civilians who have suffered a disabling condition and are unable to work and/or engage in basic functions as a result. Those programs are:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

At the state level, there may also be benefits available through:

  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP)

Workers may also obtain long-term disability benefits through a private insurance policy, usually purchased as part of an employee benefits package.

In order to qualify for SSDI, a person has to suffer a disabling condition that renders him or her unable to work for at least a year. Additionally, that person must have accrued sufficient work credits through previous taxes paid to the Social Security Administration to qualify.

Meanwhile, a person can qualify for SSI regardless of prior work history, so long as they are elderly, blind or disabled (for at least one year) and meet the low income and resource requirements.

In some cases, individuals may qualify for both SSDI and SSI. This is known as a concurrent claim.

In order to qualify for the state’s SSP program, individuals must first qualify under the federal SSI program.

Workers’ compensation, as mentioned in the previous section, is available to workers and/or their survivors and dependents when a covered individual suffers a work-related injury or death. These benefits could be granted on a short-term basis, but they may also extend for years, possibly for life.

In many cases, obtaining one type of benefit will impact your ability to collect another. For example, workers’ compensation benefits are considered a form of “earned income” that will negatively impact a person’s ability to collect SSI and SSDI. Generally, though, private disability insurance should not affect a person’s ability to collect federal benefits.

Questions on these complex matters should be directed to a legal firm with extensive experience in this area of law.

Contact the Boston SSDI Attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman by calling 1-(617) 367-2900 for a free consultation.

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