How to Get Short-Term Disability if You Have Surgery

Managing the Financial Aspects of Recovery After Surgery

About Employee Benefits

Being faced with surgery is no easy prospect. However, if your medical provider has told you that you must undergo surgery to improve your health, it’s important to take the time to find out about any benefits you may have that can cover you financially as you recover post-surgery. Some people pay for their own private disability insurance, while others receive coverage through their employer.

You may be eligible for short-term disability insurance coverage or Short Term Disability Benefits, that will help tide you over financially until you're back on your feet.

Defining Short-Term Disability Plans

Employer-sponsored short-term disability is a voluntary, cash plan that pays a percentage of your full-time salary for a specific amount of time, following the first week that you are unable to work. The plan's Summary of Benefits should provide a great deal of information and answer some of your questions. Private disability plans offer similar benefits.

Most employers will expect you to use up any paid time off (PTO) first, then the short-term disability will kick in, providing you with a weekly check that is around 40 to 60 percent of your regular gross earnings. Some plans don’t start until 14 days post-event, so be sure to check with your employer HR department to confirm the coverage rules.

Important: Not all employers offer short-term disability insurance, so if you have access to this benefit, make sure you enroll in the plan during the open enrollment period prior to having surgery. The cost of short-term disability insurance is usually very low, but having this peace of mind is priceless.

After Confirming Your Coverage

Once you have confirmed your short-term disability coverage and have scheduled your surgery with your doctor’s advice, inform your employer as soon as possible. This allows your employer to arrange for staffing coverage during your planned absence. Provide the HR department with a doctor’s note that indicates the estimated length of time you will need for recovery.

Work with your manager to make sure your leave has a smooth transition, as well as to arrange for any post-surgery accommodations you may need to help you perform your job duties upon your return. Find out if your employer expects you to perform any tasks at home while in recovery as well.

During the surgery, have a close friend or family member keep in touch with your HR department on your status and when requesting any time off (in case there are complications stemming from your surgery).

The HR benefits administrator should be able to advise you on when your paid time off terminates and your short-term disability period begins, and find out when the coverage period ends as well. The HR staff may not be able to tell you exactly how much each check will be, but your STD benefit provider will be able to once the first payment is issued.

Managing Your Finances During Recovery

If at any time you are informed you have to be out for an additional length of time, due to health problems or doctor’s orders, be sure to let your employer know immediately. Your spouse or life partner may be eligible for an FMLA leave to care for you during the recovery period, so explore that option with their employer as well.

If you need to rely on savings to cover expenses during this time, you can also inform all creditors and utility companies of your status as they may be able to reduce or suspend monthly payments for a few months.

The most important part of this experience is to focus on your health and recovery so that you can return to your job whole and well. The short-term disability payments will end once you resume work, but they can be a good source of income and peace of mind during your recovery time away from work.