Short-Term Disability Insurance in Colorado | Eligibility

A person’s eligibility for short-term disability insurance in Colorado depends on many variables.

Most importantly, you must have non-occupational (off-the-job) coverage in force before you can apply for benefits by filing a claim.

Colorado does have a required program covering temporary disabilities for state employees, and other government workers gain access after five years with the Public Employee Retirement System.

Meanwhile, many private industry taxpayers have to enroll in a policy and pay the premiums themselves – before they qualify to file a claim for benefits. 

Learn how short-term disability works in Colorado to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Applying for Short-Term Disability CO

Many individuals employed in Colorado need to purchase short-term disability insurance before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant – before they can apply for benefits.

The Centennial State does not have a mandatory program covering non-occupational losses for workers in private industry. Therefore, you might have to take proactive steps to enroll first to be eligible for benefits.  

Application Forms

Workers in Colorado may need to complete two short-term disability application forms: one to buy a new policy before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant, and the second to file a claim for benefits. 

Filing Claims

Apply for short-term disability through Social Security if you expect your medical condition to prevent you from performing any work for at least twelve months.

Your job is to compile the medical evidence supporting your claim for benefits.

  • What are your illnesses, injuries, or conditions?
  • When did they begin?
  • How do they limit your activities?
  • What did medical tests show?
  • What treatment did you receive?

New Policy

Request a short-term disability quote as the first step in buying a new policy. An agent licensed in Colorado may contact you to review premium rates associated with three feature configurations and complete the application paperwork.

  1. The benefit period determines how long claim payments last: 3, 6, 12, or 24 months
  2. The benefit amount determines how much the policy will pay monthly: up to 2/3 salary subject to a $7,500 limit
  3. The elimination period determines how quickly claim payments begin: 0,1,2,3,6, or 12 weeks

Maternity Leave

Colorado maternity leave laws do not include paid time off for parents until 2024. Therefore, buying short-term disability before conception could be a critical step for women planning to have a baby: a new policy will not cover pre-existing pregnancies.

Plus, the place where you enroll and the type of policy can impact how the coverage works when applying for maternity benefits.

  • Medical complications of pregnancy before your due date
    • All plan types may include
  • Recovery from labor and delivery after normal childbirth (two outcomes)
    • Individual plans bought outside of employers do not cover
    • Personal and group plans obtained at the worksite include coverage
      • Vaginal delivery: 6 weeks
      • C-section birth: 8 weeks
  • Postpartum disorders that delay your return
    • All plan types address postpartum medical issues
    • Only group plans include postpartum depression


The covered medical conditions under short-term disability include illnesses such as the Coronavirus. Colorado residents sidelined by COVID-19 help us illustrate how the coverage works in a real-life situation.

  • You must have a policy already in force to file a claim
  • Only the covered person is eligible for benefits
  • Coronavirus symptoms must prevent you from working
    • Not care of sick family members
    • Not the supervision of children due to school lockdowns
    • Not quarantining after exposure to an infected person
  • The elimination period could exceed the typical recovery

CO Short-Term Disability Laws

The most critical Colorado short-term disability insurance law pertains to which people have automatic income support, who must take proactive steps to enroll, and what each program addresses.

Many private industry workers must sign up for a policy covering off-the-job losses before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant. Meanwhile, mandated programs address related needs: occupational and permanent losses.

Unemployment Benefits

Collecting unemployment for health reasons is a poor substitute for short-term disability. While most workers have this coverage by default (except the self-employed), your inability to work makes you ineligible for benefits.

However, once you recover from your accident or illness, you might qualify if you lost your job in the interim. Colorado unemployment law states the following.

“You may still be eligible for payment if you were discharged from your job for medical reasons.”[1]

Social Security

The state of Colorado administers the federal Social Security disability insurance program on behalf of residents. By law, each person must fund the premiums through mandatory payroll (FICA) taxes. Therefore, the coverage is involuntary and does not require extra steps to enroll.

However, Social Security does not cover temporary disabilities lasting less than twelve months. Plus, many people struggle to survive while waiting for approval, as only about 40% ultimately qualify.

Temporary Disability

Colorado law requires temporary disability insurance for occupational losses through Workers Compensation programs. Employers must purchase the coverage, and employees do not need to take proactive steps to enroll.

If your temporary malady occurred on-the-job, contact the insurance company selected by your employer to file a claim. In addition to partial wage replacement, the mandated policy may make other payments.

  • Permanent disability claims
  • Medical and hospitalization benefits
  • Wage reimbursement while seeking care
  • Vocational rehabilitation

State Employees

Colorado state government employees enjoy taxpayer-funded group short-term disability. The coverage is involuntary, and state government workers do not need to take steps on their own to sign up for these benefits.

  • 30 day waiting period
  • 60% income replacement
  • $3,000 weekly maximum
  • 150-day claim payment duration

PERA Members

Members of the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) enjoy automatic group short-term disability after five years of paying dues.

Teachers, state troopers, firefighters, snowplow drivers, corrections officers, and other public employees do not have to take proactive steps to sign up for these benefits.

  • 60 day waiting period
  • 60% income replacement
  • 22-month claim payment duration

Footnoted Sources:

[1] CO Department of Labor and Employment