Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability, Permanent Disability – What’s The Difference?

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Immediately following an injury or an illness, people generally go on sick leave. This sick leave, however, runs out sooner or later. What are the types of disability one usually encounters in work environments? And how does Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) factor into the equation?

Short-term Disability

Short-term disability, or STD, will generally pay you part of your income after your sick leave runs out. STD may require an “elimination period,” which is a waiting period of 1-7 calendar days after the time of the injury or illness.

These STD benefits involve weekly payments, and they are almost always less than a year in duration. Most commonly, an STD payment will continue for 13-26 weeks.

STD coverage is usually not used for work-related injuries. Workers Comp is handled separately from STD.

A few life events that often fall into STD coverage:

  • Childbirth
  • A lengthy sickness
  • An injury causing disability

Long-term Disability

LTD usually lasts more than six months. It starts after the sick leave and STD benefits have run out. If you have an STD policy in place but you foresee it coming to a close, you should apply for LTD, as there is often a 90-day or 180-day waiting period for LTD to kick in.

LTD is supposed to cover the injured or sick employee until he or she goes back to work, is no longer disabled, or becomes old enough to receive Social Security retirement benefits.

Some life events that LTD covers:

  • Cancer
  • Mental disorders
  • Circulatory problems (heart attack, heart disease)
  • Severe back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Injuries due to accidents

Permanent Disability

If you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), then your doctor is saying that continuing treatment will not cause your condition to become significantly better. Your condition has “plateaued,” and you have improved as much as you will improve. If you have reached MMI but your illness or injury is still preventing you from working, then you may receive permanent disability benefits. Both STD and LTD are usually at a higher rate (a higher percentage of the weekly wage you received before the injury or illness) than permanent disability benefits offer.