Short-term disability benefits are intended to offer financial assistance to people temporarily unable to work because of an accident, disease, pregnancy or other condition. But many workers in Michigan may find that these benefits are not available to them. In Michigan, an employer may offer this kind of insurance to their workers, but neither federal nor state law mandates that they do so. In certain cases, workers with temporary disabilities may be able to get financial help from workers' compensation or under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Worker's Compensation in Michigan
Worker's compensation insurance provides financial assistance to employees in Michigan who are injured on the job or fall ill as a result of the workplace environment. This can be considered a type of short-term disability insurance because it provides financial help during the period the employee is not able to earn their salary or perform their job responsibilities because of the injury.
The Michigan Workers' Disability Compensation Act covers injured Michigan workers and their employers. It requires most Michigan employers to buy a workers' compensation insurance policy from a private insurance company, while a few companies are approved to be self-insured. The insurer provides wage replacement, medical expenses and rehabilitation benefits to the injured worker. As part of the structure of the program, the employer is relieved of civil liability for the injury.
Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits
The federal Social Security program provides both retirement and disability insurance benefits to most working Americans. The disability assistance program is limited to those who are totally disabled, that is, unable to perform any substantial gainful activity. The claimant must show that the disability is either terminal or else likely to prevent a return to work for a period of at least a year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes a long list of medical conditions that will qualify the claimant, including cancer and visual impairment.
Approximately 4.8 percent of the more than six million residents living in the State of Michigan receive Social Security Disability benefits. This system, however, will not assist those who are prevented from working by a shorter-term issue, such as a broken leg, a bout of depression or a pregnancy.
Michigan Short-Term Disability Program
Employees of the state of Michigan get benefits through the Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC). Permanent disability benefits are provided under the state's self-funded Long Term Disability Plan. These benefits, available to all state employees, are paid with state funds.
However, the Short Term Disability (STD) plan managed by the MCSC is not available to most employees. It is available only to Michigan State Police employees, and is limited to those who are not yet 60 years old at the time they apply. This insurance provides a weekly income benefit if the employee becomes disabled due to sickness or injury and becomes disabled while insured by the policy. However, if the sickness or injury is due to a pre-existing condition, the employee will not be eligible for STD benefits.
Benefits for Non-Work Injuries
Obviously, most employees in Michigan are not employees of the Michigan State Police and therefore, not eligible for the Michigan short-term disability plan. That means that short-term disability insurance is not available to them unless their employer offers it. Michigan does not offer its residents a government program insuring them against accidents that happen off the job or conditions that make it impossible for them to work. And Michigan doesn't require private employers to insure their employees, so an individual may need to apply for and purchase their own disability insurance from a private company in the state.
But, as it turns out, most Michigan residents won't be eligible for benefits under this type of policy unless they buy it before the disabling condition, illness or accident occurs. For example, a woman who misses a considerable amount of work time when she is pregnant will not get financial assistance from a proffered short-term disability program unless she actually enrolls in it before she conceives her child. If a woman gets insurance coverage when she is already pregnant, all payments for 12 months will be excluded under the pre-existing condition clause.
Family Medical Leave Act
Although many employees would like a short-term disability insurance policy to provide income while they cannot work, some are more concerned with keeping their jobs. For example, someone who has a serious medical condition that requires months of treatment may fear being fired for missing that much work. One source of support in these circumstances is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An employee who works for at least a year for a company in Michigan that employs 50 or more people is automatically covered by this federal law.
The Family Medical Leave Act guarantees an employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave time for a serious medical condition, pregnancy or adoption, as well as in the event that a parent needs to be cared for. A worker is eligible for FMLA if they are recuperating from a serious health issue, caring for loved ones facing illness, have a medical condition that required inpatient care, is pregnant, has mental health issues, suffers from chronic health issues, or needs expensive operations. They can also take unpaid leave under FMLA for a child's birth, if a family member gets called to military duty and the employee must take care of urgent demands, or to care for a loved one who suffered injury during active military service.
Employees taking unpaid leave under FMLA have the right to keep their health insurance while on leave at the same cost they paid for the insurance while they were working. Workers can, and sometimes must, use any accumulated paid time off during FMLA leave. When the FMLA leave comes to an end, the worker who took leave has the right to go back to their prior job or an equivalent one without any negative repercussions from having taken the leave.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.