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How Does California Disability Work?

Last updated: August 6, 2023

An individual with a disability has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits their ability to perform at least one major daily living function. Financial insecurity and difficulties accessing necessities such as healthcare, housing, and food can be caused by such limitations. Government assistance programs are often relied upon by individuals with disabilities to meet their basic needs and can be crucial to their self-sufficiency.

Individuals who cannot work because of a physical or mental disability can access Disability Insurance (DI) for financial assistance and support services. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) is funded by payroll taxes. Workers who suffer from a nonwork-related illness, injury, or pregnancy can receive partial wage replacement benefits. Program participants are encouraged to transition back to the workforce.

The following sections will explore the eligibility requirements, benefits amounts, payment methods, application process, claim types, and how California disability works. If your disability is not listed on the SSA's list of eligible conditions but is very severe and debilitating, read our blog post on the SSI Compassionate Allowance List.

Eligibility Requirements

CA SDI benefits are subject to the following qualification requirements. California disability benefits are available to individuals who fulfill the following conditions.

  • They are disabled for at least eight consecutive days, and their disability prevents them from doing their work.
  • Their disability has caused them to lose wages.
  • During the last four of the five most recent quarters before becoming disabled, at least $300 was deducted from their earnings for State Disability Insurance (SDI).
  • During the first eight days after a disability, the patient must be under treatment and must continue to receive treatment to continue receiving benefits.
  • Within nine to 49 days of the beginning of your disability, fill out and submit the claim form (DE 2501).

How Much Can You Expect To Receive?

In general, you may be entitled to a portion of your wages (60% - 70%) earned between 5 and 18 months before you begin claiming if you are eligible. The maximum period you can receive benefits is 52 weeks. You can find more information about disability benefit payments on the EDD's Calculating Disability Benefit Payments page.

When you file your claim, you can choose your payment option. It is possible to choose between two options.

  1. EDD Debit Card: The EDD Debit Card is available immediately after your certification is processed and if you are eligible for benefit payments.
  2. EDD Checks by Mail: Upon processing your certification, EDD checks are mailed to you within 24 hours. You can expect to receive checks in the mail within 7 to 10 days.

Most disability claims are denied the first time. If you have experienced this, check out our article about useful tips that can help you when filing for disability.

Application Process

EDD Customer Service Center or an online application can be used to apply for California disability benefits. The EDD will review each application and medical documentation once the application is received. In case of approval, the EDD will send the weekly benefit payment amount and duration along with the award notice.

Apply for disability benefits by filing a claim if you believe you are eligible. There are two options for filing an SDI claim. 

  1. File a Claim for Disability Insurance (DI) Benefits by downloading the PDF of the DE 2501 form from the EDD website, filling out the application, and mailing it to the EDD.
  2. You can also file an online SDI claim application by registering your account using EDD's Benefit Programs Online portal

The EDD will determine your eligibility after receiving your completed claim application. It may take up to 14 days for this process to be completed.

Types of Claims

SDI (State Disability Insurance) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) are two disability benefits available to the residents of California. Individuals unable to work due to a disability can receive SDI benefits for up to 52 weeks. Individuals who need time off to care for seriously ill family members or bond with new children can receive up to eight weeks of benefits through the PFL.

Disability Insurance Claim

When a work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy prevents a California worker from working, Disability Insurance (DI) provides income replacement benefits. As soon as your doctor declares that your disability prevents you from working, your claim begins.

Pregnancy Claim

Under the EDD rules and regulations, the following disability periods apply to successful pregnancy claims. 

  • Maximum of four weeks before the date of delivery.
  • Maximum of six weeks after childbirth for normal deliveries
  • Maximum of eight weeks after childbirth for C-section deliveries

If medical complications occur before or after the delivery, your doctor may certify a longer disability period.

PFL Bonding Claim

Employees who take time off work to bond with an additional child joining the family through adoption, birth, or foster care may be eligible for benefits under this claim. 

PFL Care Claim

In this type of claim, workers can receive benefits if they need to take time off work to care for family members who are seriously ill. The EDD defines a serious health condition as requiring in-patient or at-home care and ongoing treatment by a healthcare professional.

PFL Military Assist Claim

Workers who have a family member in the military who is about to be deployed to a foreign country are eligible to apply for this claim option. This is when they take time off work to attend a qualifying event. 

We hope we have answered the question of how California's disability works. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program in California provides financial assistance and support services to individuals who cannot work due to a physical or mental disability. This program provides partial wage replacement benefits for eligible workers. 

Participants can receive benefits for up to 52 weeks, with eligibility requirements including a minimum of eight consecutive days of disability, loss of wages due to disability, and earnings deductions for SDI. The EDD offers online and mail-in application options and various claim options.

Filing for disability can be a cumbersome and confusing process for most people. To read more about various disability-related matters and programs that offer disability benefits, explore the rest of our resources at Disability Help. If you are a recipient of SSDI benefits, read our article on all you need to know about maintaining your SSDI benefits

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