Workers' Compensation and Disability Benefits

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Are you unable to work because of an injury or illness? If so, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation or disability benefits.

Workers' Compensation

Employees who are injured or become ill on the job are covered by state workers' compensation laws. In every state, employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance though there are a few exemptions. Benefits include payment for lost wages and payment of medical bills.

However, you will only be paid a portion (usually two-thirds) of your salary. The first step in filing a claim is to notify your employer. Your employer should be able to supply you with the forms needed to file a claim. If they can't, contact your state Workers' Compensation Office immediately.

Disability Insurance

California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have state-sponsored disability programs. These programs are typically short-term and the benefit amounts are low. In New York, for example, the weekly benefit amount is 50% of the employee's average weekly wage, up to $170 for a maximum of 26 weeks.

Your employer may also provide additional disability coverage in these states as well as in the rest of the country. So, if you are unable to work, your first step should be to inquire as to what insurance your employer provides. If you have your own disability coverage, file a claim with that insurance company as well.

Social Security Disability

To qualify for benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. In general, monthly cash benefits are paid to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

The application process takes 60 - 90 days. Then there's a sixth-month waiting period before you can collect a check.


  • If you are injured or temporarily or permanently disabled file a claim immediately. In many cases, there are dates that claims have to be filed by to be valid - typically no later than 30 days after the injury or the illness began.
  • Contact your state Workers' Compensation Board, your state Department of Labor or the Social Security Administration if you have any questions or need help filing a claim.
  • Consider purchasing disability insurance while you're healthy. First, check with your employer to see what coverage they provide, then ask if you can purchase supplemental coverage. Calculate if the benefits you'll get will be enough to maintain your lifestyle. If they're not, consider purchasing personal disability insurance.

Please note: This is general information on workers' compensation and disability insurance. Contact your employer or state Worker's Compensation Office for a determination on your specific circumstances.