Social Security and Short-Term Disability Requirements

Can you receive short-term disability benefits through Social Security?

This is a common question caused by a common problem.

You may have suffered an accident or illness that prevents you from working and earning an income. You have bills to pay, but no money coming in.

Your employer may not provide paid leave or short-term disability. Perhaps, you did not buy a private policy in advance.

It is a hard lesson to learn. Few alternatives exist to replace lost wages.

Short-Term Disability Benefits

Public and/or private short-term disability insurance is the better alternative to Social Security for temporary impairments that prevent you from working and earning an income.

File a claim for benefits with your state or insurance company – if you actually have the coverage. Unfortunately, many people do not. Two alternatives may help.

  1. Personal loans can provide emergency cash you must pay back
  2. Debt consolidation programs could reduce unsecured obligations

Public Programs

Seven states operate mandatory temporary disability programs. People who work in one of these five states can tap into these wage benefits if they are unable to work because of a covered medical condition.

The state entitlements last from 6 to 12 months during the time you are unable to work and while under the care of a licensed doctor. The weekly amount is a fixed percentage of previous income or a hard dollar cap – whatever is less.

StateMonthsPay %Cap*
New Jersey666%$650
New York650%$170
Rhode Island660%$831

* Cap figures as of January 2019

It is unlikely that you can collect state temporary and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits at the same time. The state benefits typically end long before the SSDI approval process concludes. In case of an overlap, the state may offset or integrate with SSDI in order to discourage malingering.

Private Policies

Private short-term disability insurance replaces a portion of lost wages for 6 months or up to 2 years – if you actually have the coverage.

  • Most employers do not pay the premiums for employees
  • Sign up at work (if offered)
  • Purchase a policy as an individual
  • Act before you have a pre-existing medical condition

If you have private coverage, it is more likely that you can collect short-term disability and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) at the same time. People with a benefit period of 2 years may still receive claim checks once the SSDI approval process concludes. The insurance company may offset or integrate the benefits to discourage malingering.

Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration oversees three wage benefit options. Each program serves distinct populations and has unique eligibility requirements.

The advantage is that most US citizens are eligible to participate if they pay FICA taxes. However, only one of the three alternatives could possibly help during a temporary work absence.

Social Security Disability Income

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) does not cover temporary disabilities. The SSDI pays benefits to you and certain family members if you worked long enough and paid FICA taxes.

The SSDI qualifying criteria are very strict and difficult to meet.

  • Earnings average less than $1,220 a month
  • Condition limits your ability to do basic work for at least 12 months
    • Lifting
    • Standing
    • Walking
    • Sitting
    • Remembering
  • Impairment results from a list of medical conditions
  • Prevents you from performing any of your past work
  • Unable to do to any other type of work

Supplemental Security Income

Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) also does not cover temporary disabilities. The SSI program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited earnings and resources.

The qualifying criteria for SSI mirror those for SSDI. In addition, your countable resources must be below very low thresholds ($2,000 for an individual, $3,000 for a couple).

Retirement Income

Older people can tap Social Security retirement income in the event of a temporary disability. You can start retirement benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70.

However, you should proceed carefully before starting the benefits before the full retirement age. The amount you receive is reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your 65th birthday. You may receive far less over time if your life expectancy exceeds the average.