Short-Term & Temporary Disability in Colorado | Applying

In Colorado, those applying for short-term disability benefits often discover a significant gap in coverage among the three government-mandated programs.

The first program, Colorado Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) provides coverage for non-occupational short-term disabilities for twelve to sixteen weeks before abruptly ending.

The second benefit, Social Security, covers non-occupational temporary disabilities that last twelve months or more, per their regulations.

 The third program, Worker’s Compensation, provides coverage for temporary disabilities occurring on the job.

Buying a short-term disability policy from a private insurance company can come to the rescue if you act before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant.

Applying For Short-Term Benefits

In Colorado, employees working in the private industry should consider buying a personal short-term disability policy to supplement the state’s offering. The government-run program has a significant limitation – the benefits end quickly.

  • Twelve weeks for most medical conditions that are not work-related
  • Sixteen weeks for pregnancy-related medical complications

A supplemental policy offers financial support to cover the gap between the end of the state program’s benefits and the employee’s return to work.

State Disability

Colorado requires state short-term disability through a program with a different name: Paid Family Leave Insurance, which covers the serious health condition of an employee who is unable to work for a brief period.


Apply for Colorado State short-term disability benefits online through MYFMLI+ after January 1, 2024. You may need to complete several documents supporting your claim.

  • Verification of a serious health condition from a licensed physician
  • Validation from your employer that you are no longer working


The state short-term disability program in Colorado has two main conditions that you must meet before applying for benefits. Fulfilling both criteria to be eligible for the program is mandatory.

  1. Have a severe medical condition that involves a period of incapacity.
  2. The employee must have funded Paid Family Leave Insurance premiums.
    1. Earned at least $2,500 in the previous twelve months
    1. Not a federal government employee
    1. Self-employed or independent contractor voluntarily contributing
    1. Work for a state government agency that chose coverage


Colorado provides a state short-term disability program that assists individuals based on their wages earned in the past year. These benefits are calculated using a sliding scale.

Use the online disability pay amount calculator to approximate the weekly benefits you may receive under the program. The wages you earned in the past twelve months determine the output.

The estimate may resemble the chart provided below.

Weekly WageWeekly BenefitAnnual MaximumPercentage of Wage


The state short-term disability program in Colorado has a drawback in its benefit duration. The program only provides claims payments for a limited time, which can be a challenge for many workers who cannot return to work once the payments stop.

  • 12 Week Duration: For severe medical conditions causing lost income
  • 16 Week Duration: Experiencing medical complications of pregnancy
    • Before birth
    • Postpartum

Income opportunities while waiting for Social Security disability are limited. Additionally, you will only qualify if your medical condition lasts for at least twelve months or longer.

State Employees

Employees of the Colorado State government enjoy short-term disability benefits funded by taxpayers without the coverage. These public employees receive coverage automatically, the first day of the month following their hire date.

  • 60% of earnings
  • $3,000 weekly maximum
  • 30-day waiting period
  • Maximum duration of 150 days during 12 months

Apply for short-term disability benefits through the issuing organization if you are a qualifying state government employee and sustained an off-the-job accident or illness.

  • PERA: Employees with five years of service
  • UNUM: Always secondary to PERA

State government employees do not automatically participate in the FMLI program unless their agency or department volunteers.

Medicaid Recipients

Colorado Medicaid recipients may qualify for the state-sponsored short-term disability program (FMLI), provided they work and contribute premiums through payroll deduction with their employer.

Health First, Colorado’s Medicaid offering provides benefits for medical care, dental services, emergency services, behavioral health, physical therapy, and more but does not replace lost income when you cannot work.

Private Coverage

Purchasing private short-term disability insurance is a great way to enhance the Colorado state-mandated program for people working in the private industry. Select a three-month elimination period to keep the premiums affordable, bridging the nine-month gap before Social Security benefits become available.

If your employer does not offer short-term disability insurance, consider buying it from an external source. With the state-mandated program in place, fewer companies may offer voluntary options.

It is best to purchase the insurance before you become sick, injured, or pregnant to avoid the nine-month gap in coverage. This move will give you peace of mind, knowing you are covered.

Applying For Temporary Benefits

In Colorado, workers have a more straightforward process to apply for temporary disability benefits. Because the state mandates comprehensive coverage, individuals do not need to purchase supplemental insurance beforehand for two specific types of losses.

  • Incidents that occur while on the job, regardless of duration
  • Non-work-related losses that last for at least twelve months

Social Security

Social Security provides coverage for temporary disabilities unrelated to work and lasts for 12 months or more. In Colorado, the government requires most employees to contribute to the Social Security system through FICA payroll taxes.

To apply for temporary disability benefits through Social Security, you can do it online. It’s important to note that your medical condition does not have to be permanent or last until you reach the age of 65. You can trust the definition provided by the federal government.

“To meet our definition of disability, you must not be able to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that is either:

  • Expected to result in death
  • Has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”

Worker’s Compensation

Workers’ compensation provides coverage for employees who experience temporary disabilities while on the job. In Colorado, most employers must purchase this insurance policy for their employees, so most employees should be automatically covered.

Apply for Worker’s Compensation benefits if you experience a temporary disability while on the job. These resources can help you financially when you cannot work due to injury or illness.

  • Medical treatment
  • Transportation expenses
  • Temporary wage replacement

Report any work-related injuries or illnesses to your employer in writing immediately. Your Human Resources person can help you file a claim. You have up to two years to submit form W15 to the state through the uninsured employer fund.