If you are injured or become ill and disabled, you may have to miss substantial time from work. If this happens, you will face questions regarding job security, health benefits and how to receive an income while you’re out of work.
If you are injured at work, you are entitled to temporary compensation, medical benefits and possibly even a permanent disability award. These benefits are paid through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier or by your employer, if it is self-insured. If the doctor says you are able to return to work, you must attempt to return to work. However, if the doctor sends you back with restrictions and your employer does not have a modified duty position, you will continue to collect temporary benefits.
If you suffer a non work-related injury or illness, you may qualify for up to six months of State Temporary Disability Benefits (TDB) through the New Jersey Division of Temporary Disability Insurance. If your employer does not contribute to the state TDB program, it must provide equal or greater benefits through a private short term disability plan. Check with your employer if you are unsure which program you qualify for. Also, the State of New Jersey now provides up to six weeks of Paid Family Leave, to care for family members who are sick or disabled.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law, requiring employers to provide up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave of absence and continuation of health benefits when an employee cannot work due to personal illness or disability. The FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees. You can also apply for family leave if you need time off to care for other family members who are stricken with illness or death, or for the birth or adoption of a child. The FMLA guarantees unpaid leave and can be used in with workers’ compensation benefits or State TDB to keep your job open.
Because workers’ compensation and TDB rates are capped (the maximum rates per week in 2009 are $773.00 for workers’ compensation and $546.00 for TDB), you may want to consider a private disability policy if you earn more than these amounts. Your private plan would make up the difference between your wage replacement benefit and your salary/income.
In the event you become permanently disabled, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. To qualify, you must be considered totally disabled from performing any substantial, gainful work, and must be disabled or expect to be disabled for at least twelve months. You can apply at your local office, on the phone (800-772-1213) or online (www.ssa.gov). In the event you are turned down by the SSA, you must file an appeal within 60 days. You should contact an attorney with questions about a SSD appeal within the designated 60 day time limit to file an appeal.