Short Term Disability FAQs
What is short term disability?
Short term disability provides income if you cannot perform the major functions of your job after becoming disabled from a non-work-related accident, illness or pregnancy/childbirth. Disability benefits are measured in weeks. The maximum number of weeks available to you depends on your length of service with the county. Short term disability is intended to offer some financial protection for a brief period of time. In most situations, it will cover an illness or injury even if it is permanently disabling.
How do I initiate my short term disability claim?
- Advise your supervisor that you are applying for short term disability, and follow your department’s procedures for reporting absences from work.
- Call UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits toll-free at (866) 556-8298 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. UnitedHealthcare will mail you a letter to confirm receipt of your request and send you an authorization form (you may also access the authorization form online). You must return the authorization form using one of the following methods:
- Email: FPCustomerSupport@uhc.com
- Mail: UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, P.O. Box 7466, Portland, ME 04112-7466
- Fax: (866) 334-0985 or (888) 505-8550
- UnitedHealthcare will request an attending physician’s statement from your medical provider.
How much will I get paid?
If your claim is approved by UnitedHealthcare, then you will be paid a benefit of up to two-thirds of your base pay rate at the time you became disabled. For example, if you were earning $15 hourly, then you would receive $10 hourly while on short term disability.
Some other conditions apply, including:
- If you receive an increase in pay while you are on short term disability, your benefit will continue to be paid at the rate in effect on the date you became disabled.
- If you are eligible to receive benefits from another source (such as personal injury protection from your or another person’s auto insurance), then your short term disability benefit will be adjusted accordingly. You will not receive more than 100% of your regular pay.
- Short term disability benefits are taxable because the county provides the benefit at no cost to you.
- The county will continue to pay its portion of your group insurance coverage while you remain on short term disability. Your premium contributions will still be deducted from your disability pay, as well as any deductions you have authorized (such as deferred compensation).
How can get a full paycheck?
You may supplement all or part of your short term disability absence if you have a sufficient annual leave balance. To get a full paycheck, you would need to supplement one-third of your time not worked with annual leave hours. For example, with a normal workday of eight hours, you would need to supplement with 2.67 hours daily to receive a full paycheck. If your short term disability absence qualifies under the Family and Medical Leave Act, then it is your choice whether or not to supplement your short term disability with annual leave if your leave balance is below 40 hours. Let your department know if you do not want to supplement.
When do I receive my disability check?
For exempt employees, benefits are available on the first day of disability. For classified employees, benefits begin after a 7-calendar-day waiting period.
Your disability pay will come with your normal biweekly paycheck. After UnitedHealthcare receives the required forms and approves your claim, Employee Benefits will process your payment on the next available pay cycle. All approved short term disability payments will be issued biweekly, and your check will automatically be deposited.
How do I continue to receive disability income?
You will receive disability income as long as you continue to provide the information requested on a timely basis and continue to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment. Let your supervisor know if your leave has been extended.
What if my doctor releases me to work part-time?
Have your doctor specify in writing:
- The number of hours per day you can work.
- Any medical limitations or workplace accommodations prescribed, such as light duty or lifting restrictions.
- The expected duration of limitations.
This will need department approval. You may receive a partial benefit if you have not used all of the short term disability benefits available to you. Any part of a week that you receive short term disability counts as a full week, and it is counted against the benefit weeks available for that disability.
What happens if my illness recurs?
You may continue your short term disability without another waiting period if all the following conditions are met:
- You have not used all of the short term disability benefits available to you.
- Your doctor states you cannot work.
- It has been less than six months since you returned to work from the same condition.
If you are a classified employee and have been back to work for more than six months, you will have to serve a new waiting period.
What if I get a different illness or injury?
If you have returned to work from your first claim and become disabled due to a different diagnosis, then you will have to serve another seven-calendar-day waiting period. You must complete disability paperwork for the new diagnosis.
Will I accrue annual leave while receiving short term disability?
Annual leave accrual is based on the number of hours you worked or the amount of annual leave that you are using. If you are using leave or working partial days while on disability, then you will accrue leave for those hours.
For example, consider a situation where you are on short term disability and you are supplementing one-third of your days with annual leave in order to receive a full paycheck. If you typically accrue 4.62 hours of leave per pay period, then you would accrue one-third of that under this scenario—or 1.54 hours per pay period. If you were out on partial disability, working half days and not supplementing, then you would accrue half the amount—2.31 hours per pay period.
Does short term disability count toward my annual Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitlement?
In most situations, the absence would meet the definition of a “serious medical condition” that is required by FMLA. If you are eligible and your absence qualifies for FMLA, then your absence will be deducted from your 12-week entitlement. If you are not eligible for FMLA or exhaust your FMLA entitlement, then your absence will be considered unscheduled.
What if I have extended illness leave time?
If you have any accrued extended illness leave, it must be used before short term disability benefits will be paid. Extended illness leave accrual ended in 1994, but some long-time employees still have extended illness leave time in their leave bank.
Does the time absent on short term disability count toward retirement?
The FRS does not consider short term disability payments to be wages for retirement purposes. Any payment of annual leave or part-time hours worked within a month will qualify that month for creditable service. Refer to your FRS Handbook, log on to myfrs.com, or check with Employee Benefits if you are interested in buying back time.
Visit Short and Long Term Disability for more resources, contact information and answers to other questions.