How Long Does Individual Short Term Disability Last

(The insurance nobody thinks about until they need it.)

Written by Carey Gregory
Written by Carey Gregory

Learn who he is and what he does for TrustedChoice.

Patient using a walker recovering from a physical injury and nurse behind her helping at the hospital. How Long Does Individual Short-Term Disability Insurance Last?

If your paychecks suddenly stopped tomorrow, how long could you continue paying your mortgage or rent and all your other essential expenses without resorting to credit cards or dipping into your retirement savings? 

If you’re like the majority of Americans, the answer is not long. A whopping 46% of Americans aren’t able to cover a mere $400 emergency expense without resorting to credit card debt or a family loan.

And it’s not a far-fetched possibility that this could happen. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, one in four workers will experience a period of disability before they retire. 

If you were unable to work due to a short medical emergency, how would you pay for it? If you’re unable to work and have no short-term disability insurance, those paychecks will stop quickly. For some, it could be as soon as next week. 

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If you’re employed by a large company, it’s likely that you have short-term disability insurance provided as an employee benefit at little or no cost to you. 

But if you work for a small company or you’re self-employed, you may need to think about providing it yourself. Here are the things you should consider when purchasing short-term disability insurance:

How Long Does Individual Short-Term Disability Insurance Last?

Unlike group disability insurance provided by an employer where the employer chooses the options, when purchasing individual disability insurance, you’ll be able to choose these options yourself. There are three major choices you’ll need to make, and they will all affect the cost:

  1. Coverage amount. How much do you need every month when you’re not collecting a paycheck? Be realistic. No insurance company will cover your full salary because that encourages fraud, but keep in mind that if you’re paying for your own disability insurance with after-tax dollars, the disability payments you receive won’t be taxed. This is why most short-term disability policies will pay only about 60% of your current salary.
  2. Benefit period. This is how long the payments will continue after you begin receiving them and while you remain disabled. Standard benefit periods last 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 or 24 months. As you might expect, the cost goes up as the benefit period increases.
  3. Waiting period. Short-term disability insurance has a waiting period, known as the elimination period. This is the time between when you become disabled and when you begin receiving payments. A seven-day waiting period is standard, but some companies have elimination periods that can last up to 90 days or more. As you would expect, the shorter this period is, the more the insurance will cost you.

So the short answer is you can buy short-term disability insurance for up to 24 months.

How Long Does Individual Disability Last Compared to Group Disability Insurance?

Group disability isn’t fundamentally different from individual disability, so the benefit period is as described above. The major difference is who pays for i,t and therefore who chooses the benefit period. Of course, if you own your own business and you provide group disability for your employees, then it is you who chooses.

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How Long Does It Last Compared to Long-Term Disability Insurance?

Short-term disability is intended to cover the gap between the time you become disabled and the time your long-term disability coverage begins, or the time when you become able to resume working, whichever comes first. The length of short-term disability can range from one or two weeks up to two years, with 30 to 90 days being common.

What Occupations Should Consider Short-Term Disability?

The answer to this is simple: any occupation you depend on for income. While dangerous occupations and hobbies may increase the risk of becoming disabled, there are many ways you can become disabled other than through injuries. 

In fact, illnesses account for the majority of disability claims. It’s safe to say that if you depend on your income to maintain your standard of living, then you should probably carry short-term disability insurance.

How Long Does Short-Term Disability Last after Leaving a Job or Getting Fired?

If you quit or lose your job, you no longer have an income to protect and become ineligible for disability insurance. However, if you were collecting disability payments when you quit or lost your job, those payments will continue either until you’re able to resume working again or the benefit period ends.  

What To Do When It Runs Out?

If you’re on short-term disability when the benefit period expires and you’re still unable to work, long-term disability will kick in if you have it. If you don’t have long-term disability insurance, you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits. In order to qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be unable to work because you have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death
  • Not have a partial or short-term disability
  • Meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability
  • Be younger than your full retirement age

The application process for Social Security disability can be a lengthy affair and many applicants are rejected, so you should begin the application process well before your short-term disability insurance expires.

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Why Choose an Independent Insurance Agent?

A vast network of independent insurance agents can provide you with a large selection of individual short-term disability policies that will provide you with the security you need to protect yourself and your family from an unexpected loss of income.

Independent insurance agents simplify the process of shopping for and comparing disability insurance. They will explain the complex terms for you, cut through the jargon, and make sure you understand the fine print.

But perhaps most importantly, they work for you – not one insurance company. They can compare policies from many companies and pick the ones that are best for you at the best possible price.

They’ll also be there for you in the future if your needs change or questions arise. They work for you, and their only job is keeping you satisfied now and in the future.

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Council for Disability Awareness

Social Security Administration