Social Security & Short-Term Disability


The Social Security Administration’s disability program does not cover short-term disabilities. The federal disability program doesn’t cover partial disabilities either. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a qualifying long-term injury, illness or impairment and satisfy other requirements. However, if you’re seeking short-term disability coverage, there are public and private sources available to you.

Social Security Disability

In 2009, over 7.7 million disabled workers received disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. To qualify, your disability has to last longer than 12 months and prevent you from working and adjusting to other types of work. You are also eligible if you have low vision or considered blind. You also must have paid Social Security taxes and accumulated at least 40 work credits. To earn work credits, you have to make more than $1,120 per year. As of 2011, you get the annual maximum of four work credits when you make $4,480. You can qualify with less than 40 if you are disabled at a younger age. The Social Security disability program has strict definitions of disability; only four in 10 first-time applicants are approved for benefits.


Once you are approved for disability benefits, you must satisfy a waiting period of five months. Your benefit amounts are based on your history of earnings. The Social Security Administration calculates your disability benefit amounts every year and notifies you of how much you’re entitled to receive. As of 2011, the average monthly Social Security disability check was $1,063.


If you have other incomes such as work earnings or dividends, the Internal Revenue Service may tax some of your Social Security disability benefits at normal income tax rates. As of 2011, if you have income totaling $25,000 or more per year, up to 50 percent of your disability benefits are taxed and up to 85 percent if your income is over $34,000 per year. The Internal Revenue Service taxes 50 percent of your benefits if you’re married and your household income exceeds $32,000 and up to 85 percent if it surpasses $44,000.


There are several sources of short-term disability coverages you can choose from. You can purchase a plan from an insurance company or coverage through your employer if it’s sponsoring a group disability plan. If you live in New Jersey, New York, California, Hawaii or Rhode Island, you may be eligible for temporary disability coverage sponsored by the state’s government. If you are injured or become sick on the job, you can apply for short-term benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance program in your state as well.

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