Short-term and long-term disability insurance policies are often offered by employers as a benefit of employment. Short-term and long-term disability insurance policies replace a percentage of the beneficiary’s income for the duration of coverage. Short-term disability benefits typically last up to twelve months and long-term disability benefits can last for several years or for life. These group disability insurance policies are not usually individually underwritten, which means they typically do not exclude pre-existing conditions from coverage. Employer-sponsored disability insurance plans commonly exclude from coverage injuries and illnesses that arise from an individual’s employment because those situations are covered by workers’ compensation programs. If an individual becomes eligible for short-term or long-term disability insurance benefits and their symptoms later improve, their coverage may end. 

To become eligible for short-term disability insurance coverage, an individual must experience a “qualifying event,” in the form of an illness or injury, that prevents them from doing their job. Having COVID-19 can make you eligible for short-term disability insurance coverage if your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from doing your job. If your symptoms last longer than a few days, you should consider applying for short-term disability insurance benefits.

To become eligible for long-term disability insurance coverage, plans typically require the beneficiary to first exhaust their short-term disability insurance benefits and to be disabled for at least 26 weeks. A long-term disability insurance policy may have a definition of “disability” that is narrower than a short-term policy, making it more difficult to secure eligibility for long-term disability benefits. Additionally, some long-term disability insurance policies will require the beneficiary to concurrently apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and the benefit amount will be reduced by any amount that SSDI provides. Some long-term symptoms of COVID-19 are severe enough to qualify for long-term disability insurance benefits. If you continue to experience debilitating long-term symptoms of COVID-19 and you have exhausted your short-term disability insurance benefits, you should consider applying for long-term disability insurance coverage and SSDI.

Five states and Puerto Rico currently require employers to offer their employees disability insurance coverage through a state disability insurance program. This includes California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. If you are experiencing debilitating symptoms of COVID-19 and are covered by a state disability insurance program, consult with your state’s disability program to determine whether you are eligible for disability benefits.