Navigating the Alphabet Soup of Leave Options

As your treatment unfolds in the weeks and months ahead, you may want to keep as much of your life as “normal” as possible by continuing to work through treatment. But if that becomes too challenging, it may be a good idea to take some time off. Fortunately, there are programs to aid you and your family caregiver during the treatment and healing process. Federal job protection and state or employer wage replacement may be available to help out financially. Read on to untangle the alphabet soup of benefits and protections that may apply to you and/or your immediate family member caregiver.

Short Term Disability
If you choose to take time off, Short Term Disability (STD) enables you to take 3-6 months off, while still receiving a portion of your wages while you are disabled. Not all employers offer Short Term Disability, but in certain states (like CA, NJ, NY, RI and HI) companies are required to offer this benefit. Short Term Disability is only offered to the disabled worker, not a caregiver.

Long Term Disability
Long Term Disability (LTD) kicks in once Short Term Disability is exhausted. Depending upon the benefit offered by your employer due to your illness, benefits generally last until you can go back to work or for a certain number of years stipulated by the policy. Some policies payout until your 65th birthday. As with Short Term Disability, LTD offers a percentage of your salary while you are unable to work. Many employers offer different types of LTD benefits, which can vary greatly — some require you to terminate employment, so be sure to check with your employer so you can plan for the future.

FMLA Benefits
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal program that guarantees employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss. FMLA also requires that employers covered by the law maintain the health benefits for workers just as if they were working. While this option does not offer salary replacement, it can provide some peace of mind knowing that your job will be held for you while you take care of yourself or your family.

Quick Tips to FMLA:

  • Applies for the care of self or an immediate family member in the case of a serious medical condition
  • Employees must have worked for the company for 12 months and at least 1250 hours over those 12 months
  • The 12 weeks can be used all at once or intermittently

“FMLA and my short-term disability benefits gave me one less thing to worry about while I focused on my treatment and healing”
~ Christy B., melanoma survivor

Whether you choose to work through your treatment or take time off, it is helpful to know what options you have available to you.

River Braun is a former caregiver to his partner of 10 years who was diagnosed in 2010 with stage-4 cancer. He spent three years getting a crash course in nutrition, oncology, biochemistry, clinical trials, and how to survive when you lose your life partner. Like many survivors and caregivers, River’s experience left him with a deeper appreciation for the brevity of our lives.

“FMLA and my short-term disability benefits gave me one less thing to worry about while I focused on my treatment and healing”
~ Christy B., melanoma survivor

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  • May 7, 2018