What Is The Elimination Period Of An Individual Disability Policy?

Have you ever given thought to what would happen if you were to become disabled and unable to work? While this may seem a grim thought, it's an important one, and that's where disability insurance comes in handy. 

In this article, we dive into a critical aspect of disability insurance - the elimination period. 

Understanding Disability Insurance

Disability insurance is designed to replace some of your income if you become disabled and cannot work. It’s a crucial financial safety net that offers peace of mind to policyholders. One significant aspect of disability insurance that’s often overlooked is the elimination period.

The Elimination Period: An Overview

The elimination period in a disability insurance policy is the duration between the onset of a disability and when the insurance benefits begin to pay out. You can think of it as a deductible but in the form of time rather than money. This period is critical because it determines how long you'll need to wait before receiving benefits.

The Role of Elimination Period in Disability Insurance

Just as a health insurance policy has a deductible, a disability insurance policy has an elimination period. The key difference? Instead of paying a lump sum upfront, you're "paying" with time. The waiting period can vary from a few weeks to several months or even a year. The longer the waiting period, the less you'll have to pay in premiums.

Comparing Elimination Periods: Short vs. Long

A shorter elimination period means you'll begin receiving benefits sooner. However, it often comes with higher premiums. In contrast, a longer elimination period will result in lower premiums but means you'll need to wait longer for benefits to kick in.

Factors Affecting the Length of Elimination Periods

Several factors come into play when determining the length of the elimination period. 

Types of Disability

The type of disability you experience can affect the elimination period. Short-term disabilities typically have shorter elimination periods, while long-term disabilities may require a longer waiting time.

Policyholder’s Savings

Your personal savings can also influence the elimination period you choose. If you have a healthy emergency fund, you might opt for a longer elimination period to save on premiums.

Occupation Risk

The risk associated with your occupation can also impact the elimination period. High-risk occupations may necessitate shorter elimination periods, despite the higher premiums.

The Impact of Elimination Periods on Premiums

Your elimination period choice plays a significant role in determining your policy's cost.

Longer Elimination Periods and Lower Premiums

By choosing a longer elimination period, you lower the risk for the insurance company. This, in turn, leads to lower premiums for you.

Shorter Elimination Periods and Higher Premiums

A shorter elimination period puts more risk on the insurer, leading to higher premiums. This might be worth it for the peace of mind of earlier benefit payouts, especially if you have a higher-risk occupation or limited savings.

Making the Right Choice: A Personal Decision

Choosing the right elimination period ultimately depends on your circumstances.

Considerations for Choosing an Elimination Period

When selecting an elimination period, it’s crucial to consider several factors:


1. What is the shortest elimination period I can choose? 

The shortest elimination periods usually range from 30 to 60 days, but it depends on the insurance company and policy specifics.

2. Can I change the elimination period after the policy is in effect? 

In most cases, you can't change the elimination period after the policy is in effect. It’s important to make a considered decision at the outset.

3. Does the elimination period affect the benefit period? 

No, the elimination period and benefit period are separate. The elimination period is the waiting time before benefits begin, while the benefit period is how long those benefits will be paid out.

4. What happens if I return to work during the elimination period? 

If you return to work during the elimination period, you won't receive any benefits. If you become disabled again, the elimination period may reset.

5. Can I have both short-term and long-term disability insurance policies simultaneously?

Yes, you can have both policies. Typically, the short-term policy covers the elimination period of the long-term policy, ensuring continuous coverage.


Understanding the elimination period of an individual disability policy is crucial for making informed insurance decisions. The choice of elimination period affects not only when you can access benefits but also the cost of your premiums. Considering your circumstances and risk tolerance, you can choose an elimination period that best suits your needs. 

If you wish to learn more about how to report self-employment income to social security disability, read more from our blogs at Disability Help today.

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