Ultimate Guide to Short Term Disability in California 

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Discover the Ultimate Guide to Short Term Disability in California, USA. Learn how to apply for benefits and navigate the process with ease. 

In 2018, 10.4% of people in California of all ages had a disability, and 0.8% of children aged 4 and under also had a disability. About 1 in 4 twenty-year-olds today might have to stop working for a year or more because of a disability.

When you have a disability, it can be really hard to do things, especially work. That’s why having short-term disability insurance benefits is so important in California

But sometimes, figuring out how to get this help is confusing. This can make it hard for you and your family to get the support you need. In this article, we aim to help you understand Short-Term Disability, and provide simple steps on how to get Short-Term Disability Insurance in California!

What is Short-Term Disability?

Short-term disability (STD) insurance helps you when you can’t work because you’re sick, hurt, or have a medical condition for a little while. It gives you some money to replace your regular paycheck for a certain time, like a few weeks or months. 

This money is to help you when you can’t work. But remember, it’s only for short times when you can’t work, not for long-term or forever.

Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) Requirements By California

  • Wage replacement rate: 60–70%
  • Maximum weekly benefit amount: $1,620
  • Maximum benefit period: 52 weeks
  • Minimum Hours: No
  • Employee eligibility requirements: If you earn less than $943 per month, or $1,415 if you’re married, and have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 if married), you may qualify for certain benefits.

If you earn $100 or more in wages in a calendar quarter in California, your employer must provide you with California’s disability benefits law or short-term disability insurance. This insurance helps you if you become unable to work due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. 

Your employer doesn’t pay for this insurance, but they will deduct a small amount from your paycheck to cover the cost.

California employers can join the California State Disability Insurance program or get private insurance, which needs approval from the Employment Development Department (EDD). Private disability coverage in California is called a “Voluntary Plan.”

You need to know these rules for Voluntary Plans from the Employment Development Department (EDD):

  • They should give you the same good things as Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI).
  • They should give you at least one better thing than Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI).
  • They should not make you pay more than Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI).

You should be changed to match if Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) gets better because of new laws or rules.

How Short-Term Disability Works in California | 3 Simple Steps

Credits: Istock

Step 1: Check Short-Term Disability Insurance(SDI) Eligibility Requirements

Qualifying Disability

The Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) program says a disability is any mental or physical condition that makes it hard for you to work.

  • Even if you don’t have a job, you might still get Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) if your disability stops you from looking for work for at least a week.
  • Almost any medical condition, like being pregnant, having a baby, or getting treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, could qualify you for Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits.

Base Period Earnings

  • California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) looks at how much money you earn over a year-long period before you apply for benefits.
  • You need to have earned at least $300 in one of the three-month parts of that year to qualify for Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI). 
  • If you didn’t work for part of that year, the EDD will change the time they look at to figure out your benefits, focusing on when you were working instead.

Step 2: Applying for Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) Benefits

Document Preparation

  • To verify your identity, gather important documents such as your social security number and your California driver’s license or state ID card.
  • For your employment information, gather details about your last job, like your employer’s name, contact information, when you stopped working there, and how much you had paid for family leave.
  • If you had to work differently because of a disability or if you got workers’ compensation, include those details in your disability claim.

Application Process

To set up an online account with California’s EDD and speed up the claims process, follow these steps:

  • Online Account Setup: Create an online account with California’s EDD to start the claims process.
  • Form Completion: Fill out Part A of the claim form with the required information.
  • Submission: Submit the completed DE 2501 form for Disability Insurance online or by mail. If you don’t have a California license or a valid Social Security number or recently changed your name, you should apply for benefits by mail. 
  • Send your application: The State of California, Employment Development Department, P.O. Box 989777, West Sacramento, CA 95798-9777

Review and Benefit Issuance

  • Review Timeline: The Employment Development Department (EDD) usually handles claims in about two weeks after getting all your forms and documents.
  • Waiting Period: Once your claim is approved, you’ll have to wait seven days before you get your benefits.
  • Notification: After approval, you’ll get a letter and a debit card to use for your benefits.

Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security has two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs give money and healthcare coverage to you if you can’t work because you’re sick or injured. 

There are three ways to apply for these programs:

  • Apply online on the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  • Apply over the phone by calling 1-800-772-1213 or your local office.
  • Apply in person at your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office.

Step 3: Filing an Appeal

Appeal Form Completion

  • Disqualification Notice: If a claim is disqualified, you will receive a notification and a form to fill out for appeal if you disagree with the decision.
  • Deadline Awareness: Claims must be filed within 49 days of the disability onset, but you may miss this deadline because you are not aware of it.
  • Good Cause Appeal: You can appeal beyond the deadline by showing a good reason for missing it.

Supporting Documentation

  • Importance of Documentation: Not having enough medical or work records can result in denials. It’s important to add more records or a complete medical history when appealing.
  • Explanation: Give a detailed reason for why you think you should get benefits, and attach any important documents that support your claim.

Submission and Review

  • Filing Deadline: You must file your appeals within 20 days of getting the notice that they don’t qualify.
  • Submission Options: You can send the appeal form and any extra papers by mail or online on the EDD website.
  • Review Outcome: The EDD will look at your appeal and either say yes, giving you Short-Term Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits, or send it to the Office of Appeals for more thinking.

Types of disability benefits in California

Credits: Istock

In California, various programs provide benefits for you if you have temporary and permanent disabilities. 

State Disability Insurance

California is among five states with a State Disability Insurance program. If you can’t work because you’re pregnant, had a baby, or are sick or hurt and it’s not related to work, you can get some money to help. In California, the State Disability Insurance benefits program can give you money to replace some of your wages for up to 52 weeks.

Social Security Disability Insurance

If you get sick or hurt and can’t work for more than a year, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This is a government program that gives you money every month and helps cover medical costs with Medicare.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program run by the government that gives money and Medicaid to you if you have disabilities and do not have much money or job experience.

Veterans Disability Benefits

To see if you qualify for VA disability benefits, check your medical history during your time in the military.

Private Insurance

If you or your employer purchased disability insurance before you became disabled, you might be able to ask a private insurer for help. The amount of money and how long the insurance lasts can be different for each policy.


Short-Term Disability in California can help you if you have a temporary disability. It provides money when you can’t work because of your disability. This money can make you feel better during tough times. The program tells you how to apply and how much money you can get.

If you know someone who could use this help, please tell them about it. Your help could make a difference to someone who needs support.


Do I Need to Regularly Update the State about my Condition?

Yes, Regular medical check-ups are very important to make sure you still qualify for benefits. These check-ups can also help decide if any changes are needed for your benefits or if you can go back to work soon.

Do Pregnancy and Childbirth Qualify for Benefits?

Yes. Many mothers use benefits when they take time off after having a baby. This helps them recover from any problems during pregnancy or childbirth.

How Soon Can I Get Benefits After Applying?

After applying and if all the paperwork is correct payments could begin arriving in about two weeks. It’s important to note that the speed of payment largely relies on how accurate and complete your application is

What if I Moved out of California?

If you used to live in California but have moved away, you can still apply for and get benefits. As long as you earn your wages in California and meet the other requirements, you’re eligible.

Can I Work While Receiving Disability Benefits?

Yes, but there’s a limit to how much you can earn before you get less.

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Sabrina is a former campaign manager who has decided to focus her effort to help people contact senators and get help. She leads our Editorial Team with Ronald and Lawrence to curate content and resources that help us navigate the system.

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