Cash Benefits

There are several important benefits programs that can provide you with income support when you become disabled. Your work history, financial situation, and medical condition will determine which cash benefits you qualify for. These are the main options:

These programs will be introduced briefly here. For more detailed information about them, see DB101’s Cash Benefits section.

Private Disability Insurance

Private disability insurance replaces some of your income if an injury or illness prevents you from working. Unlike workers’ compensation, to get benefits through disability insurance, your injury or illness does not need to be work-related.

What It Provides

There are two types of disability insurance:

  1. Short-Term Disability (STD) insurance pays you a portion of your income for a short period of time after you run out of sick leave. Depending on your plan, STD generally will pay you for between 9 and 52 weeks.
  2. Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance pays you a portion of your income after you run out of both sick leave and STD. Depending on your plan, LTD may pay you for a specific number of years, like 2 years or 5 years, or until you turn a specific age, like 65.

With both STD and LTD, the amount of time you can get benefits and the dollar amount the benefits provide depend on how expensive your plan is. Generally, you will get a set percentage of the wages you were earning before you were disabled. Although the amount varies, payments are generally around 60% of your previous wage.

How You Get It

In order to get private disability insurance benefits, you must be covered by a Short-Term Disability Insurance (STD) or Long-Term Disability Insurance (LTD) plan. These are common ways you may be covered:

  • Some employers offer this benefit
  • Some other groups you may be a member of, such as a trade union, alumni organization, or other professional organization, may offer this benefit
  • You may pay for an individual plan

If you had a job before becoming disabled, you should ask your employer’s human resources manager if you were covered by a policy. You may have been covered by disability insurance through your job and not even realized it!

If you are covered, you will need to file a claim through your employer, group representative, or insurance agent, depending on how you got your coverage.

When It’s a Good Option

Private disability insurance is always a good option if you are covered. The biggest problem is that most people don’t know about it and so often are not covered. If you are not covered and recently became disabled, you probably won’t be able to start getting disability insurance coverage because of your pre-existing condition unless you sign up through an employer or other group plan.

Read more about private disability insurance in DB101’s Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance article.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

While you work, some of the money you earn automatically comes out of your paycheck and goes into a Social Security fund. If you have to stop working because of a disability, the Social Security Administration will take money from this fund and pay you a monthly cash benefit called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

What It Provides

SSDI provides monthly cash benefits to people who have worked, paid Social Security taxes, and now have a disability that prevents them from working. Your eligibility for SSDI benefits is based on your status as disabled. Because it's an insurance program, you do not have to prove financial need to qualify for SSDI and there are no income or asset limits.

How You Get It

There are 3 ways you can apply for SSDI after you become disabled:

  1. You can apply online.
  2. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) and the representative will take your application over the phone.
  3. You can visit your local Social Security office and apply in person.

Whichever method you choose, you will need to complete an application form and an Adult Disability Report.

Once you’ve submitted this information, Social Security will check two things to see if you qualify for SSDI:

  1. You must be insured. That means you must have worked long enough to be covered by SSDI.
  2. Social Security must determine that you are disabled. They will look at 5 different criteria and if you meet all 5, they will consider you disabled.

When It’s a Good Option

SSDI is a great benefit for anybody who qualifies. The benefits can begin when you have been disabled for 5 months. Remember that with SSDI, you automatically become eligible for Medicare after 2 years, a very important health benefit described earlier in this article.

Read more about SSDI in DB101’s SSDI article.

Don't confuse SSDI and SSI

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs two different important programs for people with disabilities:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays cash benefits to people who have worked long enough and paid into its insurance system before they became disabled.
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays cash benefits to people with disabilities who have low incomes and few assets.

You may qualify for one or both of these programs.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

People who are disabled or blind may not be able to work or afford to live on their own. If you have a disability, don’t have enough money for your basic needs, don’t have much income, and have limited assets, you may be able to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

What It Provides

If you qualify for SSI, you get a monthly check. This money helps you pay your expenses, like food and rent. Many people who qualify for SSI also qualify for Medical Assistance (MA), Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), and SNAP (formerly Food Support/Food Stamps).

How You Get It

You can apply for SSI at your local Social Security office or by telephone (ph: 1-800-772-1213; TTY: 1-800-325-0778). If you need help applying for SSI, contact a Social Security Advocate.

When It’s a Good Option

SSI can be a huge help for you if you qualify. It’s very helpful for people with low income and low assets. Even people who have never worked can qualify for SSI.

Read more about SSI in DB101’s SSI article.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance that provides you with benefits if you become injured or disabled while you’re at work. All employers are required to provide you with this insurance.

What It Provides

Workers’ Compensation pays for expenses related to an injury or disability that occurred while you were working. For example, if you are a truck driver and get in an accident that leads to you becoming disabled, Workers’ Compensation would pay for your medical expenses related to the accident and also pay you cash benefits for any time that you are unable to work due to your disability.

If your work-caused disability continues for many years and prevents you from working that entire time, you may continue to receive Workers’ Compensation cash benefits that entire time. If you can no longer work in your old job due to your disability, Workers’ Compensation may pay for you to get training for different work.

How You Get It

If you become injured at work, you need to notify your supervisor or human resources department as soon as possible. You should do so in writing (a letter or email), so that there is a record that you reported your work-related injury or disability. Your employer will then report your injury to the Workers’ Compensation insurance company.

It is extremely important to document everything, because the Workers’ Compensation program will not want to provide you with benefits if they think that your injury did not happen while you were working.

When It’s a Good Option

Workers’ Compensation is important if you have an injury or disability that happened at your work. If you have a disability that prevents you from working that was not caused by your work accident, you will not get Workers’ Compensation benefits.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry manages Workers' Compensation claims. They have a brochure (PDF) that is an excellent guide to workers’ compensation in Minnesota.