Long and short-term disability insurance for teachers is often the primary option to protect income. Buy a policy before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant in order to qualify to file a claim for benefits when the need arises.

However, the nature of the education system in the U.S.A. leaves many educators guessing about where to turn. School boards and union membership make a complicated roadmap to find coverage.

Fortunately, teachers can often purchase a policy directly without having to rely on their local school system, a state program, or dues-paying union membership.

Female educators of childbearing age have an extra incentive to enroll.

Best Disability Insurance Options for Teachers

The best disability insurance option for teachers to purchase depends on needs and circumstances. Every person has unique reasons for wanting to protect income in case an accident or illness prevents them from educating students in the classroom.

Request a quote for an individual policy that you can purchase directly outside of your school or union. An agent may contact you to review options and take your application over the phone.

Social Security

Teachers can sometimes collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Nationwide, only about 60% of educators pay into the program with each paycheck via FICA taxes.[1] You cannot apply for SSI if you did not pay into the program.

This is why you see many states managing separate teacher retirement systems. Check your paystubs for FICA contributions or contact your school district for more information about eligibility.

In addition, SSI does not cover temporary disabilities. Your doctor must expect your condition to last more than a year at a minimum.

Educator Insurance Plan

The National Educators Association (NEA) Income Insurance Plan is a viable option for any dues-paying schoolteachers. The NEA offers both short and long-term disability options with plenty of flexibility around feature choices.[2]

Option Elimination Period Days Benefit Period Years
I 7 2
II 14 2
III 30 2
IV 90 2
V 7 Age 65
VI 14 Age 65
VII 30 Age 65
VIII 90 Age 65

State Programs

School employees such as teachers, nurses, and administrators working in certain states also have the opportunity to collect from a variety of disability insurance plans. For example, five states have a program for temporary issues, while others have strong union representation.

Educators in each state can also take advantage of individual plans bought outside of work and voluntary programs offered via payroll deduction through the school.


California schoolteachers have several disability insurance options in addition to individual and voluntary plans noted above.

  1. San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) offers an option to select bargaining units[3]
  2. California Teachers Association (CTA) provides a voluntary group plan for dues-paying members[4]
  3. California State Disability (SDI) does not cover every teacher in the state because government employees are exempt from the mandate
  4. The California State Teachers Retirement System (CSTRS) provides income protection under its defined benefits program

New York

New York schoolteachers also have at least three different disability insurance choices (including individual and voluntary).

  1. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Member Benefits Trust offers both a short and long-term option to dues-paying members[5]
  2. United Federation of Teachers (UFT) offers disability retirement to dues-paying members that begin after 10 years of service[6]
  3. New York State Disability Insurance specifically excludes “persons engaged in a professional or teaching capacity in or for a religious, charitable, or educational institution”[7]

New Jersey

New Jersey schoolteachers also have at least four disability insurance options to choose between (including individual and voluntary).

  1. New Jersey temporary disability program allows school districts to participate by an election – it is not mandatory
  2. New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) members can enroll in the Educators Insurance Services plan at designated enrollment periods without a medical exam[8]

Teacher Paid Maternity Leave Benefits

Short-term disability insurance is often the best option for teacher paid maternity leave benefits. Most school districts do not fund income replacement while female teachers are absent from the classroom due to complications of pregnancy, or while recovering from normal labor and delivery.

  1. Begin prior to conception to avoid pre-existing condition exclusions
  2. Buy a policy covering recovery from normal labor and delivery if you can
  3. Opt for a short elimination period to maximize the payout
  4. Default to individual plans that cover pregnancy complications only

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Virtually all short-term disability policy types that teachers can buy will cover complications of pregnancy that cause a classroom absence prior to mom’s due date. Twenty-five percent of pregnant women experience one or more medical complications before birth.

Therefore, the odds of any teacher needing this feature are very high. Many women time their purchase to begin prior to their planned conception. In addition, a first trimester prescription for bed rest could last 6 months or longer.

Individual short-term disability plans are a good fallback option for educators without access to a group or voluntary plan. They will not cover normal childbirth but do address this significant exposure.

Leave After Childbirth

Certain short-term disability plan types create paid maternity leave benefits for teachers after a normal childbirth experience. Many people plan this event and all play a role in making it happen. Therefore, only policies issued through groups offer this valuable feature.

  • Vaginal birth: 6-week payment
  • C-section delivery: 8-week payment

Voluntary plans acquired through employment and group coverage obtained through teacher unions often include this popular maternity leave benefit. In addition, they often will cover pregnancy complications before, and postpartum disorders after.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Teacher Pension Blog

[2] NEA


[4] CTA

[5] NYS United Teachers

[6] NYS Workers Compensation Board

[7] UFT

[8] Educators Insurance Services, Inc. NJEA