Short-Term Disability in Wisconsin: Application Requirements

Applying for short-term disability in Wisconsin means different things to different people.

For some Cheese Heads, it means where do I file a claim for benefits to replace lost wages?   

For other Badger State workers, it means where do I purchase a policy to protect income?  

Wisconsin does not mandate coverage for accidents or illnesses that happen outside of work. Therefore, you must get a policy before you can file a claim.

If you did not purchase a policy, you will have limited options. However, because your income will be lower, you may qualify for benefits that help reduce expenses. Also, Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation could help. 

Wisconsin Benefit Applications

You cannot apply for short-term disability benefits by filing a claim unless you enrolled in a policy before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant. Wisconsin does not mandate a program covering off-the-job (non-occupational) accidents and illnesses.

State Benefits

If you do not have coverage, you cannot file a short-term disability claim to replace lost income. Fortunately, you may be eligible for other state-supported benefits based on your lower projected income.

Government money for bills and personal use could be available to reduce expenses. Low-income families can present estimated future earnings on alternative benefit applications. These programs could keep your household afloat while recovering from an accident or sickness.

State Insurance

Suppose you do not have a short-term disability policy. In that case, you can file a claim for benefits through SSDI, funded through FICA payroll taxes and mandated by the federal government.

However, the Wisconsin state-administered benefits are lacking and difficult to get.

  • SSDI covers disabilities lasting twelve months or longer. You become ineligible by returning to work before then. 
  • They use a strict Any-Occupation definition. You are ineligible if you can perform any substantial gainful activity.
  • You must wait five months before benefits begin. Many live check-to-check while working and have no savings.
  • Most families experience a massive pay cut because the average monthly SSDI benefit is only $1,400.

Apply for SSDI benefits in person or online. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services administers claims for state residents.

  • 800-772-1213
  • 800-325-0778 (TTY)

Private Insurance

Wisconsin workers who purchased a short-term disability policy before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant can apply for benefits. File a claim with the private insurance company that issued your policy.

Find the phone number and website URL in your files. Download the claim form and follow the instructions carefully to avoid unnecessary delays.

Complete the document and submit it for underwriting review. If approved, the insurer will begin sending checks per the terms outlined in your policy.

WI New Policy Applications

Wisconsin does not mandate state short-term disability insurance covering non-occupational illnesses and injuries. Therefore, workers must get coverage before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant. There are three avenues, ordered by preference.

Plan TypeIndividual (outside of employers)Voluntary (employee-paid)Group  (employer-paid)
New Policy ApplicationMust completeMust completeAutomatic enrollment
Monthly PremiumsHighestLowerLowest ($0)
UnderwritingStrict: more policy denialsLenient: fewer policy denialsGuaranteed issue: no policy denials

Individual Plans

Not every Wisconsin employer offers short-term disability insurance as an employee benefit. You can still purchase coverage alone if your workplace does not provide an option.

Individual short-term disability, not through employers, is available. Find a licensed agent to take your application by requesting a quote online. However, these plans have several drawbacks.

  • Premiums will be higher
  • Underwriting criteria are stricter
  • Benefits are less generous


Self-employed business owners in Wisconsin can sometimes purchase short-term disability insurance with lower premiums, more lenient underwriting, and more generous benefits.

The self-employed can get short-term disability with these superior terms if they work as independent contractors. Several insurance companies will issue worksite plans to 1099 employees, provided the premiums are payroll deducted.

Private Employers

Many private employers offer short-term disability insurance as an employee benefit. Below are several large companies in Wisconsin offering a plan.

CompanyPrimary CityVoluntaryEmployer-Paid
AptivLa CrosseX 
FiserveBrookfield X
Lakeside Curative ServicesRacine X
Milwaukee ToolMilwaukee X
Previa HealthGreen Bay X

Government Agencies

Many government employees can get short-term disability insurance at work. An agency, department, or district might offer a voluntary or group short-term disability program or no program at all.

State & Local

State and local government employees can buy short-term disability insurance through a voluntary plan offered by the Wisconsin Retirement System.

The Income Continuation Insurance (ICI) program replaces a portion of your wages if you cannot work because of sickness or injury (both short and long-term). Wisconsin Statute § 40.62 authorizes the benefit.

Enroll by completing the Income Continuation Insurance Application (ET-2307) and returning it to your personnel office. File a claim by contacting the plan administrator, The Hartford.

  • Toll Free: 1-800-960-0052
  • Fax: 1-833-357-5153


Some municipal government employees in Wisconsin can get short-term disability insurance through their city employer.

Municipal AreaVoluntaryEmployer-Paid
Green BayX 
Racine X


Many public school employees in Wisconsin, including female teachers seeking maternity leave benefits, can get short-term disability at work.

School DistrictVoluntaryEmployer-Paid
Deforest AreaX 
Madison MetropolitanX 
Racine Unified X
Sturgeon BayX 


Many federal government employees work in Wisconsin at the Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Justice, Interior, Treasury, Transportation, and many more.

Federal employees can enroll in a voluntary short-term disability plan by contacting a licensed insurance agent outside their agency and arranging to pay the premiums through payroll allotment.

Postal workers are federal employees.

Universities & Colleges

Many university and college faculty in Wisconsin can get short-term disability insurance at their workplace.

Alverno College X
Concordia University X
Marquette University X
Madison Area Technical CollegeX 
Wisconsin University System *X 

* As a state-government entity, the university system offers the Income Continuation Insurance option at all campus locations: Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior, and Whitewater.

WI Disability Requirements

The primary short-term disability requirement in Wisconsin is buying an insurance policy before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant to protect your income. No state law forces enrollment for programs covering off-the-job (non-occupational) accidents or illnesses.

Pre-Existing Condition

Buy short-term disability in Wisconsin before you have a pre-existing health condition. The pre-existing condition requirement might affect your coverage when purchasing a policy and filing a benefits claim.

If you have a pre-existing condition, short-term disability coverage begins twelve months after the policy’s effective date. However, many people with pre-existing health conditions are ineligible for coverage.

You must be healthy enough to get the coverage. When completing the new policy application, expect the insurance agent to ask detailed questions about your medical history.

Maternity Leave

Women must purchase short-term disability for pregnancy before conception. Wisconsin maternity leave laws provide for unpaid job-protected time off for parents, making this requirement crucial for new mothers.

If you purchase short-term disability while pregnant, two policy exclusions will eliminate maternity leave benefits associated with your current baby.

  • The policy will exclude pregnancy-related disabilities during the first twelve months after the effective date as a pre-existing condition.
  • The policy will not pay benefits for any losses caused by your giving birth due to normal pregnancy within nine months after the effective date.

WI Premium Costs

Short-term disability insurance policies in Wisconsin offer unique feature combinations that policyholders can choose based on their impact on monthly premiums.

Our short-term disability cost calculator illustrates how the benefit period, monthly amount, and elimination period affect monthly premiums. Meanwhile, factors that remain constant may also impact rates.

  • Tobacco use
  • Job role
  • Industry classification
  • Age

Benefit Period

Short-term disability benefits last the lesser of your recovery time (when a doctor clears your return to work) or the benefit period stated in the policy.

Employees choose the benefit period when buying the coverage. The longer the policy pays claims, the higher the monthly premium costs.

Monthly PremiumsBenefit Period
Lowest3 Months
Middle6 Months
Highest24 Months

Monthly Amount

The maximum that short-term disability pays is two-thirds of income or a monthly limit, whichever is lower.

Employees choose the monthly amount when enrolling in the coverage. Higher monthly amounts result in costlier monthly premiums.  

Monthly PremiumsMonthly Amount

Elimination Period

Short-term disability benefits start after satisfying the policy’s elimination period, which means the time when claims are not payable.

Employees choose the elimination period when purchasing the coverage. The more quickly benefits begin, the higher the monthly premium costs.

Monthly PremiumsElimination Period (Days)
Lowest90 accident/90 sickness
Middle30 accident/30 sickness
Highest0 accident/ 7 sickness

Tax Consequences

Short-term disability has income tax implications because it insures wages. Your choice of payment method impacts the upfront monthly cost or the downstream claim payment.

  • The benefits are income-taxable when filing a claim if you pay the premiums with pre-tax payroll deductions. In this case, you save money upfront.
  • The benefits are tax-free when filing a claim if you pay the premiums with after-tax dollars. In this instance, you save money when you need it most.

WI Qualifying Conditions

Short-term disability insurance in Wisconsin covers injuries and illnesses that satisfy your insurance policy’s definition of a qualifying medical condition causing lost income. The policyholder must be under the regular care of a licensed physician.

Qualifying Accidents

Qualifying accidental injuries for short-term disability must meet specific criteria. Check your policy for statements like these.

  • Occurs after the effective date and while  the policy is in force
  • Is of a type listed in the policy schedule
  • Is not excluded by name or description
    • While committing a crime
    • While driving in a race
    • Practicing or playing a professional sport
    • Injuring yourself intentionally
    • Flying in an unscheduled airplane
    • Being exposed to an act of war

Qualifying Illnesses

Qualifying sicknesses for short-term disability must meet similar standards. Check your policy for statements like these.

  • Is diagnosed after the policy effective date
  • Is of a type listed in the policy schedule
  • Causes a loss beginning while the policy is in force
  • Is not excluded by name or description
    • Addiction to drugs or alcohol
    • Having a mental or emotional disease
    • Having a pre-existing health condition


Surgery often qualifies for short-term disability benefits, provided the operation meets the criteria for illnesses and accidents noted above.  

Claim payments work differently for surgery based on the type of operation and your recovery time.

  • The surgery must be medically necessary. Cosmetic procedures reshaping healthy tissue to improve appearance do not qualify.
  • The recovery time must exceed the elimination period. Wisdom tooth removal would not meet the threshold, while a hysterectomy or knee replacement might.

Mental Health

Mental health problems rarely qualify for short-term disability. Mood or thought disorders are not medical conditions.

To receive short-term disability benefits for mental health issues, a policyholder must have group coverage rather than an individual policy. Employer-paid plans sometimes include these benefits, while employee-paid programs typically do not.

An employee-paid individual policy might have an exclusion similar to the statement, “We will not pay benefits for losses that are caused by or are the result of your having a mental or emotional disease or disorder of any kind, including psychosis and mood disorders.”

Own Occupation

A loss of income from your regular occupation is often a qualifying condition for short-term disability. Many policies contain an Own-Occupation definition, which is more lenient than an Any-Occupation standard.

Read your insurance policy and look for the definition of disability. An Own-Occupation standard might read as follows; “Totally disabled means you cannot perform all of the material and substantial duties of your regular occupation.”

WI Short-Term Disability Laws

Several Wisconsin laws affect workers dealing with a short-term disability (STD). None of these regulations provide income replacement, but they do address job security and other workplace concerns.


The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal short-term disability law safeguarding Wisconsin workers. FMLA provides twelve weeks of unpaid job-protected time off for eligible employees working for a covered employer.

You can use FMLA and STD together for your serious medical condition. However, you would be ineligible to take both concurrently to care for a sick family member.


The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (WFMLA) is a state-specific short-term disability law covering more workers while providing less time than its federal counterpart.

WFMLA provides unpaid time off for an employee’s serious health condition.

More Workers Qualify for WFMLA than FMLA
Hours worked1,2501,000
Employer size50+ within 75 miles50+ employees
FMLA Lasts Longer than WFMLA
Employee disability12 weeks2 weeks
Childbirth12 weeks6 weeks


Wisconsin state law prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who can perform essential job functions, with or without accommodation.

This rule may become crucial when an employee needs a reasonable accommodation to return to work after a brief absence for medical reasons.

The WI law defines a reasonable accommodation as a modification to a job, the work environment, or how things are done that allows individuals to complete their duties.


Wisconsin law does not permit workers to collect unemployment while on short-term disability. The two programs have mutually exclusive criteria.

You cannot file for unemployment if you are off for medical reasons because you fail the primary test: being physically able to work. However, you might be eligible after your recovery.

Wisconsin law provides an exception for workers who quit their jobs. You may be eligible to collect unemployment insurance if “your health left you with no reasonable alternative but to quit.”

WI Occupational Disability

In Wisconsin, Workers’ Compensation provides temporary disability insurance covering on-the-job (occupational) accidents and illnesses. State law mandates the coverage, meaning employees do not need to enroll proactively.

TDI Applications

Wisconsin employees must not purchase temporary disability to file a claim application. By law, employers must furnish Worker’s Compensation Insurance for most personnel, with some exceptions.

  • Domestic servants
  • Some farm employees
  • Volunteers
  • Religious sect members

File a Worker’s Compensation claim following the responsibilities the Department of Workforce Development communicates.

  • Tell your supervisor that you are hurt immediately
  • Obtain any necessary medical attention
  • Maintain all relevant medical and payment records

TDI Benefits

Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation includes temporary disability insurance and other benefits to speed your return to work and good health.

  • Coverage of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses
  • Benefits for temporary wage loss during the healing period
    • 2/3 of pre-disability wages
    • Subject to a maximum amount
  • Benefits for permanent disability for partial recoveries
  • Vocational rehabilitation and retraining
  • Death benefits and burial expenses when necessary