Finding financial assistance when you are temporarily disabled often means you must look under many different rocks. No single source of monetary help provides a complete answer. However, you may be able to combine many programs together to keep your family afloat.

You may be facing a combination of lost income, and increased medical expenses. Find possible sources to help replace a portion of your lost earnings, and explore programs that may help you minimize cost while you recuperate.

  1. Possible sources of income assistance
  2. Programs to help reduce expenses
  3. Supportive federal government policies

Income Assistance for Temporary Disability

For many temporarily disabled workers seeking financial assistance, replacing lost income is the first priority. Many of us rely on an ongoing salary to pay for necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.

When we lose one income, even for a brief period, it may be very hard to stay current on our regular bills. Find a brief summary of possible resources for help.

Borrowed Funding

Request a personal loan to get the extra funding you need to cover your ongoing expenses while you recuperate. Be careful about borrowing money. Make certain that your work absence will be brief, and that your employer will hold your job open. You must repay the lender with interest.

State Disability

State-mandated temporary disability insurance is available in five states. Payments begin after satisfying an elimination period and last for six to twelve months. The maximum monthly benefit amount begins at $170 per week and ranges up to over $1,000.

If you work, not live, in one of these five states you may be eligible to apply for benefits.

  1. California
  2. Hawaii
  3. New Jersey
  4. New York
  5. Rhode Island

Private Insurance

Private disability insurance may approve your application for benefits, provided you purchased a policy before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant. Many employers offer a voluntary option to employees while a subset pays the premiums for every employee.

Contact your employer to verify coverage if any. Read the policy language carefully, and pay close attention to the elimination period. This defines how quickly benefits begin.

The most common elimination periods are 7, 14, 30, 60, 90, and 180 days. If you recover and return to work before this period elapses, your claim will not qualify.

Collecting Unemployment

Unemployment compensation may provide delayed income assistance to temporarily disabled workers in six states, and their caregivers in twenty-two. If you lost your job while unable to work, you may be able to collect after you recover. First, the affected individuals must meet these three universal criteria.

  1. Physically able to work
  2. Available to work
  3. Actively seeking new employment

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided incentives to the states to “modernize” their systems, and expand eligibility to include a “compelling family reason.” Twenty-two states accepted the incentives.

  • 22 include an employee who voluntarily leaves work to care for a sick family member
  • 6 expanded the definition to include an employee’s own disability

Social Security (SSI)

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide income replacement assistance for permanent medical conditions only – not temporary ones. A permanent condition lasts one year or longer, or projects to end in death.

  • SSDI covers workers who worked long enough to pay the threshold amount of payroll taxes.
  • SSI provides cash benefits to cover basic needs for people with no income.

Workers Compensation

Workers compensation programs provide income support and medical care assistance for on the job accident and illnesses in all fifty states. This is mandated coverage for every employer; however, it does not cover off the job accidents and illnesses, which are far more common.

File a claim with your employer’s carrier if you are unable to work because of an on the job incident, or an unsafe work environment.

After Surgery

Income assistance after surgery is a popular topic and a very serious need for people who are unable to work even briefly. We can address two common questions now that we have laid the groundwork for the various private and public programs.

  1. Can I get temporary disability after surgery? The answer is different for each person.
    1. Yes – if you work in one of 5 states with a mandatory program
    2. Probably not – if you work in one of the 45 without compulsory coverage
    3. Yes – if an occupational accident caused the need for the operation
    4. Probably not – if an off-the-job accident or illness brought on the need
    5. Yes – if you purchased private coverage before you developed the condition
    6. No – if you do not have a private plan or have not met the pre-existing exclusion period
  2. Can I get Social Security Disability for a short time after surgery? The answer is probably not. This public program covers permanent medical conditions only.

Expense Assistance for Temporarily Disabled

Controlling expenses is a very important form of financial assistance for people who are temporarily disabled. In addition to lost income, people face extra medical expenses for doctor visits, hospital admissions, prescription drugs, special accommodations, and more.

Your auto and medical insurance may play a key role in controlling these expenses.

Auto Insurance

If your temporary disability resulted from an automobile accident, check your car insurance policy to determine what type of personal injury protection you chose at the time of application. Personal injury protection sometimes provides for income replacement, and more frequently may help offset any unreimbursed medical expenses associated with treatment for your injuries.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is vital while physically unable to work. Your change in working status may trigger changes in your primary medical plan. Maintaining an adequate health care plan is critical while you attempt to recover from your accident or illness. Make certain you learn about COBRA, qualifying life events, and Medicare eligibility.


COBRA rules require your employer to continue your medical plan on the same basis as while you were working. However, you may now have to make premium contributions after tax, rather than pre-tax, which raises costs. If you lose your job, you can continue in the group plan, but lose the employer contribution – which really boosts expenses.

Qualifying Life Events

A change in employment status is a qualifying life event. You have the option of purchasing a new plan outside of open enrollment. New plans cover pre-existing conditions with no waiting periods.

You may qualify for premium and cost-sharing subsidies – which is income based. Make sure to project your future income accurately. Take into account a much lower salary while unable to work.


You may be eligible for Medicare once your disability extends beyond two years – although the government classifies anything beyond one year as permanent.

Food Stamps

Food Stamps are a possible source of expense assistance during a period of temporary disability. The government-sponsored Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income people buy the food they need for good health.

The primary eligibility criteria for food stamps can fit some people with short-term disabilities.

  • Working for low wages or working part-time
  • Unemployed
  • Receiving welfare or other public assistance payments
  • Elderly or disabled and are low-income
  • Homeless

The amount of countable resources, such as a bank account, is another food stamp criterion. Households may have up to $3,250 in countable resources if at least one person is disabled.

Government Support for Short-Term Disability

The federal government provides several forms of non-financial support for people with short-term disabilities. The government enacts laws and establishes agencies to establish and enforce regulations protecting worker rights.

These protections may come into play once you recover and return to work.

Under ADA

The American Disability Act (ADA) may cover a temporary impairment caused by an injury if it substantially limits a major life activity. This means that your employer may have to make a reasonable accommodation.

Under EEOC

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from treating pregnant women unfairly when it comes to any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, pay levels, job assignments, fringe benefits and more.

Employers must treat pregnant women the same way they treat any other temporarily disabled employee.


The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides twelve weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for disabled workers. Your employer must restore you to the same job role and the same pay scale if you return to work within this twelve-week period.

State family leave regulations may extend the length of leave, and expand the number of qualifying workers and employers.

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