New Short-Term Disability Program Applies to Most Faculty

December 16, 2009

Dec. 16, 2009 — Effective Monday, the University of Virginia will administer the short-term disability program for most faculty members through a new vendor.

When they were hired, teaching and research or administrative and professional faculty members chose between two different retirement plans: either the Optional Retirement Plan (also known as the Faculty Retirement Plan, offering a choice of third-party vendors TIAA-CREF, Fidelity or Vanguard), or the Virginia Retirement System. The short-term disability benefit is determined by that retirement choice; the majority are enrolled in the Optional Retirement Plan.

Susan A. Carkeek, vice president and chief human resources officer, e-mailed faculty members last week, explaining the new program, one of the items in the "Take 5 for Five" Human Resources' plan of five big changes for staff and faculty this past fall.

Short-term disability is generally described as a type of "sick" leave for absences of more than five days but less than six months, including maternity leave. (Absences greater than six months are considered long-term disabilities and are covered under a separate benefit).

The University will implement a new short-term disability program with the Optional Retirement Plan starting Monday. The new program refers all claims for short-term disability benefits to a third-party vendor, The Standard, which will be responsible for handling claims and determining the medically necessary time away from work.

For those in the Virginia Retirement System, there are no changes to their benefit.

While there are many administrative advantages to implementing this program, this is a different approach for managing medical absences for most faculty members, Carkeek said.

The new, managed plan has the following advantages:

• It preserves confidentiality regarding employees' medical conditions;
• It provides a medical basis for determining length of absences;
• It consistently applies the Optional Retirement Plan short-term disability benefit across Grounds.

University Human Resources has developed a Web page that should answer many of the most common questions, including:

• Why is the University making this change?
• How do I file a claim?
• How long can I stay out on short-term disability?
• What do I need to share with my supervisor about my medical condition?

More information, including FAQs and resources, can be found on the Human Resources Web site. Those with questions can also call the HR Service Center at 434-982-0123; e-mail HRDept@virginia.edu, or drop by University Human Resources to speak to a benefits counselor.

— By Anne Bromley