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Can I Get Temporary Disability After Surgery?

Last updated: November 23, 2023

Around 15 million adults in the United States undergo surgery yearly, mainly to address issues related to their muscles, bones, and heart.[1]

To qualify for New Jersey's Temporary Disability Insurance in 2023, individuals must meet specific base year earnings requirements.[2]

Musculoskeletal conditions are a leading global cause of disability, often necessitating surgery.[3]

Oklahoma's 2023 HealthChoice Disability Plan provides up to 150 days of paid disability benefits after a 30-day elimination period.[4]

With the advancement of healthcare treatments and medical technology, surgery has become more accessible. Approximately 15 million American adults undergo yearly surgery, primarily for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditions.[1]

However, getting surgery can often lead to financial struggles, especially for low-income individuals. Fortunately, in addition to charities and grants that help pay medical bills, low-income households may also be eligible for temporary disability after surgery. Moreover, in states like Oklahoma, after waiting for 30 days, the HealthChoice Disability Plan offers paid disability benefits for a maximum of 150 days.[4]

If you are considering surgery, ensure you have medical insurance coverage for the associated medical expenses by considering your disability benefits. You can find out more about temporary disability by reading the article below.

Fast Facts

Around 15 million American adults undergo surgery every year for issues relating to their muscles, bones, and hearts.

What Is A Short-Term Disability Plan?

Short-term Disability Insurance (SDI) is an optional insurance plan that pays you a portion of your full-time wage as compensation after your first week of missing work due to a work-related injury or disability. 

You may be entitled to receive at least 40% to 60% of your pre-injury income for up to six months. However, the final compensation amount, as well as other disability benefits, may vary depending on your employer's insurance provider. It should also be noted that employers usually sponsor short-term disability plans.

How To Get Short-Term Disability For A Surgery

How To Get Short-Term Disability For A Surgery

Getting a short-term disability for surgery can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips to consider when filing for a short-term disability application:

Enroll Ahead Of Time

Since it is difficult to foresee an illness or injury that necessitates surgery, we recommend having short-term disability insurance coverage as soon as possible. If you are newly employed, you may inquire about disability benefits and insurance plans with your company's HR department. 

If none is provided, paying a private insurance company would be your only option. However, when purchasing an individual disability policy, costs can vary depending on the coverage period, field of occupation, age, and gender. 

Inform Your Employer Immediately After Confirming Eligibility

Once you verify your eligibility for short-term disability, it's best to inform your employer as soon as possible to streamline the processing of your claim. With your immediate confirmation, your employer and company administration can promptly facilitate and make the necessary adjustments for your planned absence. 

Support your claim with essential documents, such as doctor's notes, diagnosis reports, and medical certificates, for smooth claims processing. You may also coordinate with your employer for any required post-surgery arrangements. 

Surgery is often required for musculoskeletal conditions, which are a major reason for disability worldwide. [3] If you cannot move, speak, or do anything due to your surgery, have a close friend or family member inform your employer as frequently as possible about your condition. Additionally, constantly contact your company's benefits administrator to determine when your paid leave expires and your temporary disability period starts.

Short-Term Disability Vs. Long-Term Disability Insurance

If you require a constant flow of income during your post-surgery recovery period or when you suffer a temporary disability, then short-term disability insurance (SDI) is your best option. It provides monetary compensation based on a fixed percentage of your pre-injury earnings. You are entitled to these redress payments for up to six months. 

On the other hand, long-term disability insurance provides coverage and financial assistance for serious illnesses or permanent disabilities. The coverage is typically longer and could even last for several years, depending on your disability rating and the benefit period of your insurance policy. Moreover, there is a "waiting period" before your long-term disability benefits begin, which usually starts at three months.  

Fast Facts

You may be entitled to receive at least 40% to 60% of your pre-injury income for up to six months.

Understanding Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) Through Real-Life Scenarios

Navigating the complexities of Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) can be challenging, especially when facing surgery. We've created some realistic scenarios to help you understand how SDI applies in different situations. These examples cover various surgeries and employment statuses, providing a clearer picture of how SDI works.

Scenario 1: Full-Time Employee Undergoing Knee Replacement

John's Story:

  • Background: John, a 45-year-old software engineer, is scheduled for knee replacement surgery. His doctor estimates a recovery period of 6-8 weeks.
  • Employment Status: John is a full-time employee at a tech company.
  • SDI Application: John applies for SDI through his employer's insurance program. He can receive 60% of his regular income during his recovery.
  • Special Considerations: John uses a week of paid time off (PTO) before his SDI benefits begin. He provides his employer with medical documentation to support his SDI claim.

Scenario 2: Self-Employed Individual Having Gallbladder Removal

Sarah's Experience:

  • Background: a 38-year-old self-employed graphic designer, Sarah, requires gallbladder removal surgery. The expected recovery time is 2-4 weeks.
  • Employment Status: Sarah is not covered under an employer's SDI plan as a self-employed individual.
  • SDI Application: Sarah has a private disability insurance policy. She files a claim with her insurance provider, submitting the required medical evidence.
  • Special Considerations: Since Sarah's policy includes a waiting period of 14 days, she plans her finances to cover the gap before her benefits start.

Tips for Navigating SDI:

  1. Understand Your Policy: Whether you're employed or self-employed, know the specifics of your SDI policy, including benefit amounts and waiting periods.
  2. Prepare Documentation: Gather all necessary medical documents and employer forms in advance to streamline your SDI application process.
  3. Communicate with Your Employer: If you're employed, keep an open line of communication with your HR department or benefits administrator.

Every surgery and employment situation is unique, as is every SDI application. These scenarios are designed to give you a general idea of what to expect and how to prepare. For more personalized advice, consult your HR department, insurance provider, or a legal expert specializing in disability rights.

How To Manage Your Finances During Recovery

Can I Get Temporary Disability After Surgery?

Always notify your employer immediately if you learn that you must take time off work for an extended period due to health issues or surgical procedures. Also, be prepared if your benefits are not provided immediately, as temporary disability claims may take time. 

Some plans defer income payments until after an elimination period, which can take 1 to 2 weeks. Moreover, the compensation amount may not cover your medical expenses and utility bills. 

In such situations, your spouse may apply for financial assistance under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This program provides supplemental compensation for your partner if they must leave work to care for you while you recover.

Navigating the Legal Landscape of Temporary Disability for Surgery

Understanding the legal framework surrounding temporary disability insurance (TDI) is crucial for anyone undergoing surgery. This section sheds light on key legal aspects and policies that govern TDI, helping you navigate your rights and obligations.

Key Legal Considerations in Temporary Disability for Surgery

  1. Eligibility Criteria:
    • Under most TDI policies, eligibility for benefits post-surgery hinges on the inability to perform your job duties due to medical reasons. The surgery must be medically necessary, not elective or cosmetic.
    • For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the U.S. allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, which can include recovery from major surgery.
  2. Duration and Extent of Coverage:
    • TDI typically covers a portion of your salary for a predetermined period. This duration varies based on your policy and the nature of your surgery.
    • For example, under the California State Disability Insurance (SDI) program, eligible workers can receive benefits for up to 52 weeks.
  3. Documentation and Proof:
    • Legal requirements often mandate submitting comprehensive medical documentation to substantiate your claim. This includes surgical reports, doctor's notes, and clearly stating your inability to work.
    • Failure to provide adequate documentation can lead to delays or denials of claims.
  4. Employer-Specific Policies:
    • Some employers offer additional disability benefits or have specific procedures for applying for TDI. Reviewing your employee handbook or consulting with your HR department for company-specific guidelines is important.
  5. State-Specific Laws:
    • TDI laws can vary significantly from state to state. For example, New York's Disability Benefits Law provides temporary cash benefits paid to an eligible wage earner when disabled by an off-the-job illness or injury, including post-surgery recovery.

Practical Tips for Navigating Legalities

  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of the latest changes in disability laws and policies in your state.
  • Consult Professionals: Consider seeking advice from legal experts or disability advocates for complex cases or if you encounter challenges with your claim.
  • Prepare in Advance: Gather all necessary documents and understand the process before surgery to ensure a smooth claim experience.

Navigating the legal aspects of temporary disability for surgery can be complex, but understanding these laws and policies is essential for ensuring you receive the benefits you're entitled to. Always consult with legal professionals for advice tailored to your specific situation.

Fast Facts

Employees can take unpaid, job-protected FMLA leaves for specified family and medical reasons, including recovery from major surgery, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Checklist for Obtaining Temporary Disability Insurance for Surgery

Verify Eligibility: Check if your surgery qualifies for TDI. It must be medically necessary, not elective or cosmetic.

Understand Your State's Program: Research your state's specific TDI program, as benefits and eligibility vary.

Gather Medical Documentation: Collect all necessary medical documents, including surgery details and expected recovery time.

Apply for State Disability Benefits: If applicable, apply for state-specific disability benefits, which often cater to lower-income groups.

Seek Employer-Sponsored Benefits: If employed, inquire about any employer-sponsored disability benefits and their application process.

Explore Additional Assistance: Look into supplementary programs like Medicaid or community assistance for additional support during your recovery.

Submit Your Application: Ensure all forms are accurately completed and submit your application along with the required documentation.

Follow Up: Regularly check the status of your application and respond promptly to any requests for additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding temporary disability. 

1. Can I get a disability for a short time due to surgery in California?

Short-term disability insurance provides coverage for cosmetic and elective procedures. However, your healthcare provider must affirm that the surgery prevents you from performing your regular duties.

2. Who qualifies for a temporary disability grant?

Qualified recipients of temporary disability grants must be medically certified to have a temporary disability, either mental or physical. Additionally, this disability should prevent the employee from going to work and performing their responsibilities for at least six months but no longer than one year. 

3. Can I get a temporary disability after surgery?

Employees who may qualify for temporary disability benefits should have a medical condition that prevents them from working. This may include severe illnesses, pregnancy, or surgical procedures. 

In the event of a temporary disability or while recovering from surgery, short-term disability insurance (SDI) can provide financial assistance. However, it only offers a small amount of coverage (40–60% of pre-disability income) for a limited period—typically no more than six months.

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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