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How Does Short-term Disability Work with Workers’ Compensation in Virginia?


If you’ve been injured on the job, you may claim benefits from workers’ compensation insurance. However, you may also have heard of short-term disability benefits for employees and are wondering: what is the difference between workers’ comp and short-term disability? Can I claim both at the same time?

Here are answers to your questions about short-term disability in relation to workers’ comp. For legal advice specific to your situation, don’t hesitate to speak to a Virginia workers’ comp attorney.

What is Short-Term Disability? How Is It Different from Workers’ Comp?

In terms of employee benefits, short-term disability (STD) is a voluntary insurance that an employer may offer their employees to cover injuries and illnesses. The main difference between short-term disability and worker’s compensation is that short-term disability may cover non-work-related injuries that cause you to miss work. Meanwhile, workers’  comp is limited to on-the-job injuries.

Short-term disability benefits may cover:

  • Childbirth
  • Accident injuries, in or outside of work
  • Sickness that requires ongoing treatment
  • Surgery that requires recovery time
  • Other conditions that prevent you from working.

Another difference is that employees themselves must purchase short-term disability insurance if they want to have it. (An exception to this are state employees, as they are automatically enrolled in a short-term disability plan.) Workers’ comp, on the other hand, is an insurance that most employers must provide their employees, as mandated by Virginia law.

Here are other differences to help you weigh the pros and cons of short-term disability plans:

  • Compensation amount. STD policies vary, but often, they pay lower benefits than worker’s compensation. A typical short-term disability plan may pay 60 percent of your pre-injury wages, but worker’s comp pays 66 and ⅔ percent.
  • Taxes. Workers’ compensation is non-taxable, while some STD benefits are taxed..
  • Out-of-pocket costs. Workers’ comp does not require you to pay out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copays. With some short-term disability policies, you may have to shoulder these costs.

Can I Receive Workers’ Comp and Short-Term Disability at the Same Time?

In most cases, you cannot receive both workers’ comp and STD benefits for the same injury. However, there are policies that may allow an exception to this. Together with an attorney, review your short-term disability policy to see if it allows you to also claim worker’s comp.

There are also cases where an employee files for workers’ comp first, gets denied pending investigation, then files for STD benefits as a second option. While receiving short-term disability benefits, the employee wins at the workers’ compensation hearing and is approved for workers’ comp benefits, including retroactive pay.

In this case, the employee may be obligated to pay back the STD insurer for the benefits that workers’ comp will now be paying retroactively. Many STD insurance policies require you to sign a contract saying you agree to pay them back in cases like this. If you aren’t sure what to do or what your rights are, reach out to a trusted workers’ compensation lawyer Jaleh Slominski for a free consultation.

Which Should I Claim: Workers’ Comp or Short-Term Disability?

When choosing between workers’ compensation and STD benefits, it generally makes more sense to file for workers’ comp if your injury is work-related and you can prove it. For injuries and illnesses outside of your job, you’ll need to claim from your short-term disability policy. An STD plan may also be your second option in the event that your workers’ comp claim is denied.

Note that short-term disability insurance does not automatically award you benefits when you’re injured. You’d still have to go through the process of proving your injury and establishing that it requires you to take days off.

Another thing you should remember is that your employer cannot make you choose one over the other. If you received information from your company that you are entitled to only one of these benefits, speak with a lawyer right away to understand your rights.

Talk to a Reliable Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Workers in Virginia trust Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who has effectively stood up for her clients’ rights. Ms. Slominski is ready to guide you on your best compensation options, and to advocate for you even when faced with powerful companies and insurers.

Talk to Attorney Slominski about your worker’s comp or short-term disability concerns. Contact us by email, or call (434) 384-9400 (in Lynchburg) or (540) 554-3762 (in Roanoke).