Only a few states offer short-term disability programs, and Kentucky is not one of them. However, a person who can't work because of a disability can apply for federal protections to sustain them and their family members during that time.
What Is Short-term Disability?
Short-term disability is a medical condition that causes someone temporarily to be unable to work. In that instance, short-term disability insurance pays part of the employee's salary.
Missing work for a few days due to a cold or flu doesn't count as having a short-term disability medical condition; nor do prolonged healthcare issues, like those stemming from a car accident count – long-term disability policies cover these. A workplace injury is not a short-term disability either, and worker's compensation covers it.
Medical Certification of a Disability
Medical professionals must certify the worker's medical condition in order for them to receive short-term disability insurance benefits. Certification sets forth what illnesses or injuries qualify. They can include:
- Long COVID.
- Major accident injuries.
- Maternity leave.
- Some mental illnesses.
- Side effects from medical procedures or medicines.
- Post-surgery rehabilitation.
States That Offer Short-Term Disability Benefits
Only a few states offer short-term disability programs – California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Some also provide paid medical and family leave programs. They are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
Kentucky state does not guarantee short-term disability insurance and has no laws that protect workers with short-term disabilities. However, workers can access federal protections in the event of temporary disability.
Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal social insurance program through which disabled workers and their dependents earn benefits – SSDI replaces some of their lost income.
To receive disability coverage, a person must meet the Social Security Act's definition of what a disability is. They are disabled if they can't work as the result of a medical condition that lasts at least one year or that will result in death. This disability must prevent them from performing their former work and from pursuing future employment.
In early 2019, the Social Security program paid an average benefit of $1,234 to disabled workers each month, barely enough to keep recipients above the 2018 poverty level of $12,140.
What Is Kentucky Medicaid?
Kentucky Medicaid is both a state and federal program administered through the Social Security Act. It provides health care to low-income residents, families, pregnant women and the elderly.
Eligibility for Kentuckians is based on factors such as family size, income and the U.S. poverty level. Those eligible can receive coverage for dental, hearing, medical, vision, behavioral health and prescription drugs.
Eligibility Requirements for Medicaid
To receive Medicaid, a person must be a Kentucky resident and a United States citizen, national, permanent resident or legal alien. They must be low income or very low income and in need of healthcare services.
They may also be responsible for a child 18 years old or younger, have a disability themselves or have a family member with a disability in their home, or be pregnant.
What Is Supplemental Security Income?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another program available through the Social Security Administration. It pays monthly benefits to those with limited income who are disabled, blind, or 65 and older. Blind or disabled children may also get these benefits.
Most states allow SSI recipients to get medical assistance through Medicaid. Some states also provide supplemental payments to specific recipients, as well as food assistance.
In addition to being disabled, blind or at least 65 years old with a limited income, to qualify for SSI, a person must:
- Be a citizen, qualified national or resident alien of the U.S.
- Live in a U.S. state, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Not be out of the U.S. for 30 or more consecutive days or a full calendar month.
Disability Benefit Process
When someone applies for SSDI, SSI or Medicaid, the Social Security Administration determines their eligibility status. If it finds them eligible, SSA sends the individual's application to Disability Determination Services (DDS), which collects their medical information from doctors, clinics and hospitals.
The individual may have to provide further information to DDS or they may be asked to take part in a free medical exam to provide further evidence of disability.
DDS adjudicators and medical professionals gather the evidence and decide if the person has a disability that qualifies them for benefits. If the person does not provide all of the information DDS requests, the agency may not have enough information to make a decision, and the applicant may not get benefits.
Kentucky Anti-discrimination Laws
The Kentucky Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against workers on the basis of age, color, disability, race, religion, national origin, sex, or if the person is a smoker or nonsmoker. The state also provides protection to people with HIV, AIDS or black lung disease.
A worker can file a discrimination claim with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They do not have to file with both agencies, as long as they indicate to one of them that they want one agency to cross-file the claim with the other.
Kentucky law covers smaller employers not covered through federal law, such as workplaces with between eight and 14 employees; the EEOC covers companies with 15 or more employees. Workers must file a complaint with the KCHR within 180 days of the date they believe discrimination occurred.
- Social Security Administration: Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview -- 2022 Edition
- GoodRx Health: What Is Short-Term Disability? How It Works and When You Can Use It
- Social Security Administration: Disability Benefits
- Benefit.gov: Kentucky Medical Program (KMP)
- Humana.com: Kentucky Medicaid
- Benefits.gov: Kentucky Medical Program (KMP)
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.