Short-term disability is a type of insurance usually offered through your employer. Some employers cover the cost associated with the plan, while others offer it to employees as a self-pay option. Short-term disability pays a portion of your wages if you are out of work for approved medical reasons. Typically the plan pays around 60 percent of your wages, and lasts anywhere from six to 12 months. In most cases, any time off for disability beyond 12 months is considered long-term disability.

Contact your employer's benefit plan administrator to confirm you have short-term disability coverage.

Ask about the plan requirements for using your paid time (such as sick time and vacation time) before disability payments begin. Plans often require a waiting period before short-term disability kicks in, typically seven to 14 days. These stipulations depend entirely on plan specifics.

Complete the necessary paperwork. In most cases, there is an employee statement, a physician's statement and a portion for your employer to complete.

Take the physician's statement to your doctor and upon completion return all documents to the plan administrator.

Confirm with the plan administrator that all paperwork is in order. Once approved, your disability payments will be retroactive back to your first day of disability (minus any probationary period).


Short-term disability plans are usually run by a third-party administrator. This helps protect your medical privacy under the HIPAA laws. You should be able to return all paperwork to the third-party administrator if you choose not to let your employer know your medical status.