Tell us about your experiences with weight management. Take our survey!

Disability Benefits

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2022

When you have a chronic medical condition, there may be times when you are not able to work. This can seriously affect your finances and your family’s. However, there is help available from the federal government and private insurance companies. These benefits can help you supplement your earnings until you can go back to work.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees qualified workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. During leave, workers keep their jobs and health benefits. FMLA generally covers:1

  • Public agencies
  • Public and private elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Companies with 50 or more employees

These employers must offer qualified workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year to:1

  • Care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition
  • Take medical leave when the worker cannot work due to a serious health condition

You can only take leave if you:1

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Have worked for them for at least 1 year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past year
  • Work at a job where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

What is short-term and long-term disability insurance?

This type of insurance pays part of your income when you cannot work because of an illness or injury. You may be able to buy disability insurance through your employer. Or you can buy it on your own. Some states offer disability insurance.2

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

There are 2 types of policies:2

  • Short-term policies offer benefits for a few months up to 1 year.
  • Long-term policies pay for a few years, or until you fully recover from the disability.

If you are paying out of pocket for a policy, be sure to compare insurance companies and find out:2

  • How the company defines a disability
  • When benefits start
  • How long benefits continue
  • How much money the policy pays in the event of an illness or injury

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)?

The federal government also has programs that pay benefits to people with disabilities:2-4

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to people who are disabled. It also pays benefits to certain family members, like spouses, former spouses, and children. To qualify, you must work long enough within a certain period of time and pay Social Security taxes on your income.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for adults and children with disabilities who have little to no income or resources. People 65 and older may also qualify if they meet income conditions. SSI provides monthly payments for food, clothing, and shelter.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages both programs. For adults, it defines a disability as:2

  • An inability to work
  • An impairment that is expected to last for 12 months or more or end in death
  • A condition that appears on a list of disabling medical conditions

Disability in children means:2

  • A physical or mental disability that causes obvious, severe constraints on function
  • An impairment that is expected to last for 12 months or more or end in death

You or your family members can get benefits under SSDI or SSI only if you have a full or long-term disability.

Can I go back to work and still get SSI or SSDI benefits?

You can earn a limited income and still receive SSI and SSDI benefits. Under the SSI program, you can make $65 a month without losing benefits. If you earn more, the SSA will cut back your benefits by $1 for every $2 you make.5

With SSDI, you can also go back to work without losing your benefits. The SSA says you must earn less than a “substantial” amount, which may change from year to year. In 2021, the amount is $1,310 per month.5

More resources for people with disabilities

Certain government programs and resources can help meet your needs if you have a disability. These include:2

For more information and help, check out:
Health Resources
Managing Healthcare Expenses
Resources for Veterans, LGBTQ+ People, and Other Special Groups
Workplace Considerations
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI)