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MOD regularly receives calls from individuals who had been gainfully employed but suddenly find themselves unable to work due to a temporary physical or mental impairment and have exhausted any paid time off they may have had. These individuals are not looking to permanently collect disability benefits, but are seeking temporary assistance to pay their bills and other expenses while they are out of work for what may be several months.  Sometimes, even a few weeks of lost income can be a crisis.

Callers are typically surprised to learn that the state of Massachusetts does not provide short term disability insurance. That is, workers in Massachusetts are not automatically paying into a program that will cover them in the case that they become unable to work temporarily due to a disability.  While the state Department of Transitional Assistance does provide emergency cash and food assistance to people with very limited household income and assets, the benefit amounts are small, and many individuals will exceed the income and asset limits.  Therefore, it is important for workers to have a plan for how they will make ends meet should they become ill or injured.

Are you covered?

It is important to ask yourself how you would handle temporary disability.

Some employers may offer short term disability insurance as a benefit. Employees should speak to human resources or other appropriate contacts for information on what their employer offers for short term disability coverage. Some employers, such as the Commonwealth of MA, have a “sick bank,” program where employees donate a number of paid leave hours in exchange for short-term coverage in case they run out of their own paid time off due to a medical condition.

However, if your employer does not offer short term disability insurance or a sick bank program, and you are unable to save enough money to carry you through potential months of lost income, you may want to consider purchasing private short term disability insurance.  There is a wide selection of private plans of varying cost and coverage.  It is important to know that you must enroll in short term disability either through your employer or independently before you become disabled. You cannot simply sign up once you need the benefit.

Many individuals don’t consider how they would support themselves if they unexpectedly became unable to earn income for weeks or months, but taking time to research your options and planning ahead for temporary disability is a wise approach.

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