Short-Term Disability Insurance in Tennessee | Applying

Does the State of Tennessee offer short-term disability insurance?

The answer is yes, no, and somewhere in between. It depends on who asks the question and whether the person became sick or injured on or off-the-job.

People who work for the state, county, and municipal governments have the opportunity to enroll in group plans – but must do so voluntarily and pay the premiums themselves.

Others who work in the private industry might have the same opportunity to sign up at work, or they may have to buy privately outside of their employer.

Remember one key distinction. You must proactively buy coverage before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant if you want to file a claim for benefits.

Individual Short-Term Disability in TN

In Tennessee, individual short-term disability insurance replaces a portion of income if you are unable to perform the regular duties of your full-time occupation because of non-occupational (off-the-job) accidents or illnesses.

Because the state does not require this coverage, you must take proactive steps to safeguard your income before getting sick, injured, or pregnant.


Many people miss the basic requirements when applying for short-term disability in Tennessee.

  • The state does not have a mandatory program covering non-occupational losses that are temporary (lasting less than 12 months)
  • Individual policies exclude preexisting conditions for at least 12 months, so you must enroll in coverage before filing a claim

Filing a Claim

Apply for short-term disability through Social Security if you do not own a private policy and 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 if you want to buy individual coverage. A new policy will not cover preexisting conditions for at least 12 months, and you must show evidence of good health to qualify.

An agent licensed in Tennessee may contact you to present estimated monthly premium costs for various feature configurations. Each feature choice influences the premium rate.

  • A monthly amount up to 2/3 of income
  • The benefit period describes the maximum length of claims payments
  • The elimination period determines how quickly benefits begin after a loss

The agent will help you complete a new policy application and submit the signed paperwork to the insurance company for underwriting review and possible approval.


The Tennessee maternity leave laws do not provide wage support. Therefore, buying coverage before conception is essential. You do not want to face a claim denial due to preexisting pregnancy.

When purchased before conception, short-term disability may cover several pregnancy-related medical conditions – depending on where you obtained the coverage.

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

State of Tennessee Disability Insurance

The State of Tennessee does offer and or require group disability insurance for select segments of people dealing with specific types of circumstances. Your choice of words matters in this context.

  • Offer means that employees can choose to enroll and pay premiums themselves via payroll deduction
  • Require means that the government forces people to have the coverage and pay premiums via some form of taxation
  • Group policies have better maternity leave benefits, covering childbirth recovery and postpartum depression

Social Security

The state of Tennessee administers two Social Security disability insurance programs for residents for medical conditions lasting 12 months or longer. However, the federal government requires that everybody participate and funds the premiums through mandatory payroll (FICA) taxes.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Therefore, you do not need to sign up for either Social Security program to file a claim for benefits for non-occupational medical conditions. However, three caveats remain.

Temporary Disability

Tennessee state law does require employers to purchase group temporary disability insurance to cover occupational (on-the-job) accidental injuries and illnesses under the Worker’s Compensation umbrella.

Employees do not need to sign up for temporary disability insurance in advance. The coverage is automatic, and employers pay the premiums, which is indirect taxation.

Therefore, apply for temporary disability benefits with the private insurance company that issued the Workers Compensation policy chosen by your employer. Of course, you must demonstrate that your incident occurred while working to qualify.

State Employees

The State of Tennessee does offer two types of group disability insurance programs to full-time state personnel and higher education employees.[1]

These state employees pay the full premium themselves, and most enroll voluntarily in one or both group programs before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant.

  • Short-term: lasts for up to 26 weeks
  • Long-term: begins after 90 or 180 days


The City of Nashville offers two types of group disability insurance to its metropolitan government employees.[2] Music City employees must enroll before having a health event.

Nashville government employees pay the premiums themselves through payroll deduction for two optional group programs they obtain at work.

  • Short-term
    • 7-day wait
    • 26-week benefit duration
  • Long-term
    • 180-day wait
    • Age 65 +/- benefit duration


The Shelby County Government, which includes Memphis, offers group long and short-term disability insurance to its employees.[3] Once again, we see two critical terms that make a world of difference to affected individuals.

  • Memphis offers the two programs, which means employees must enroll proactively and pay the premiums themselves via payroll deduction
  • Group plans have more lenient qualifying criteria for new enrollees and pay better benefits for pregnant women recovering from childbirth.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Tennessee Partners for Health

[2] Metropolitan Government of Nashville

[3] Shelby County Employee Benefits