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Disability Insurance Benefits Programs

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About Disability Insurance Benefits Programs

If you become disabled and can't work, there are several disability insurance and other types of disability benefits programs in the U.S. that will help you pay the bills, get back to work, or both. It's a good idea to know about these disability programs before you need them, so you may take advantage of the benefits right away. For example, disability benefits might start on the date you file your claim, not on the date your disability began. Also, there might be a waiting period before disability benefits begin, from the date you file your claim.

Employer Disability Insurance Benefits

In addition to health care, dental and life insurance benefits, many employers offer disability insurance benefits to attract and retain employees. Typically, these employers offer both short-term disability and long-term disability insurance benefits.

  • Some employers pay 100 percent of disability insurance premiums and give the benefits to all eligible employees.
  • Others offer disability insurance benefits at discounted group rates and give eligible employees the option to elect coverage.
  • Still others offer short-term disability insurance for free, and give eligible employees the option to elect long-term disability insurance at discounted group rates.

If you've never had to file a claim or your employer provides disability insurance benefits at no cost, you may have forgotten whether or not you have short-term, long-term or both types of disability insurance. Check the paperwork you received on new-hire orientation day (or shortly thereafter) or contact your company's HR department to find out if you're covered by short-term and long-term disability insurance, and to what extent.

State Disability Insurance Benefits

A few states—including California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York at this writing—offer disability insurance benefits programs. If you don't have private or employer-provided disability insurance benefits, you might be covered by your state's program. Alternately, you might be paying into your state's disability insurance program through automatic payroll deductions, if you elected it instead of (or in addition to) disability insurance benefits offered by your employer.

Typically, state disability insurance benefits are administered by the same agency that administers unemployment insurance (or a division of same). In fact, you might be covered by state disability insurance even if you are unemployed when your disability starts. To find out if your state offers such a program (and vocational rehabilitation too), start by contacting your state's unemployment office.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

Unlike retirement benefits, you may collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits at any age, if you have paid Social Security taxes. (Most U.S. workers have under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, typically abbreviated as FICA on paycheck stubs.) But you must have a serious physical or mental impairment that your doctors and the Social Security Administration's doctors agree will prevent you from performing substantial work for a year or more. Social Security Disability Insurance doesn't cover partial or short-term disabilities, but the state disability insurance mentioned above might.

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits include monthly pay, Medicare health insurance, and if your disability permits, Vocational Rehabilitation and other employment-support programs that help you go back to work. You might be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income, even if you haven't paid Social Security taxes.

Workers' Compensation Disability Insurance Benefits

Typically, states require private-sector and state-government employers to carry Workers' Compensation Insurance. Most other disability insurance programs cover you if you injure yourself off the job or develop a disabling illness unrelated to your job. But Workers' Compensation Insurance covers you if you injure yourself on the job or develop a disabling, job-related illness. Read the article "Workers' Compensation" for information about eligibility and applying.

Veterans' Disability Insurance Benefits

The U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), a branch of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offers two disability benefits programs.

  • Disability Compensation - Pays a monthly monetary amount to eligible service members and veterans who are at least 10 percent disabled as a result of (or made worse by) military service. Includes physical injuries, physical and mental diseases, and post traumatic stress disorder from sexual trauma.
  • Disability Pension - Pays an annual monetary pension spread equally over 12 months, to eligible wartime veterans who have limited income and can't work, or who are 65 or older.

The VBA also offers other programs in connection with the disability benefits programs, such as vocational rehabilitation and health care benefits. Start at the VBA homepage for more info.

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