Although disability insurance benefits often function in the same manner that unemployment insurance does, providing partial replacement for lost wages when you don’t work, they’re not identical programs. Disability insurance benefits aren’t generally available to workers who were fired, unless they were terminated for being medically unable to perform their job and, in many cases, can’t return to any form of work. Able-bodied workers must seek benefits from their state unemployment agency, although you may not qualify if you were fired for cause.
Workers Compensation Disability
Workers compensation insurance benefits are available for workers who were injured on the job or became ill because of workplace conditions. Benefits aren’t dependent upon your current work conditions, and workers who lose their job because they can’t perform their duties or are limited by a doctor from performing their job, thus losing employment, may collect disability benefits. In most states, these benefits are about 66 percent of your weekly salary, though states set maximum benefit levels.
Private Disability Insurance
Many employers offer disability insurance as a benefit to their workers, and other workers purchase their own out-of-pocket plans to provide additional coverage. Eligibility in these policies varies significantly, and some employer-provided policies end eligibility when you are fired. Check with the company’s human resources department to determine the extent of your coverage. Again, if you were fired because of a physical limitation you may receive coverage, while making claims after being terminated for cause may not be allowed under your policy.
Social Security Disability Insurance
If you were fired from your job and are completely disabled -- you must not be able to return to work in a different occupation or job -- and the disability is expected to last for a year or result in death, you may qualify for the Social Security Administration’s disability insurance programs. To be eligible, you must have worked a job that contributes to Social Security coffers and be certified as totally disabled by a qualified physician. Your benefit depends upon your work history and past wages. Recently terminated workers may not qualify if they’re able to return to work and aren’t totally disabled.
If you were fired for no fault of your own, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits rather than disability. To qualify for unemployment insurance, you must continue to look for a job, have worked minimum amounts in the preceding 18 months and are able and available for work. If your disability or illness prevents you from accepting a job or engaging in an ongoing job search, you may not be eligible by the requirements set forth by your state.