Academic Disability

Academic Disability is a University program that provides paid medical leave and short-term and long-term benefits to eligible faculty and P&A employees who become unable to perform their work duties due to a certified mental or physical health issue.

These benefits are under the Academic Disability Program and administered by the University of Minnesota and Unum.


Faculty and Academic Professional and Administrative (P&A) employees are generally considered eligible if they work at least 67% time in appointments of at least nine months in duration.

The eligible job classifications are:

  • 94XX series (excluding visiting, adjunct, or clinical employees from outside the University)
  • 9301-9399
  • 9621-9640
  • 9701-9799 (excluding 9755 - research specialist, 9756 - clinical preceptor, and 9757 - industrial fellow)

If you don’t know your job classification, you can find out by going to MyU and looking on the My Info tab.

Types of Disability Coverage

When we talk about leaves and benefits relating to disability, it may not always be clear who is administering the program or what is included. This section will help you sort out the three main types of coverage.

Medical Leave Benefit

  • Administered by your department/Unum
  • Up to three consecutive months of partial or total disability
  • Covers up to 100% of your salary

Academic Disability Plan

  • Administered by the University and Unum
  • Starts with fourth month, but not more than 12 months of disability
  • Covers either 66-2/3% or 100% of your covered compensation

Academic Long-Term Disability

  • Administered by Unum
  • Starts after 12 months of disability and covers 66-2/3% of your covered compensation
  • Number of months of benefits depends on age when disability begins

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Medical Leave Benefit

Medical leave is available through your department for up to three consecutive calendar months of partial or total disability. The period of three months is not extended by a partial work effort.

Salary continuation during the medical leave is based on your earnings in effect on your last full day of active work.

Covered compensation is based on your scheduled biweekly rate of earnings on your last full day of active work, not to exceed 100% of your current salary. Covered compensation includes, but is not limited to, basic salary, augmentation, increment, commutation, summer research, summer teaching, and certain lifetime awards. Salary increases will be applied to your work earnings. However, disability earnings starting at month 4 will be paid at your earnings rate in effect on your date of disability. 

Medical leave may be unpaid during any period where there are no scheduled earnings, such as the summer or during an unpaid leave of absence. Refer to the Academic Disability Plan Certificate.

You need to call Unum at 1-800-986-3239 within 14 days of disability to file a claim for medical leave benefits. Consult Filing a Disability Claim (pdf) ahead of time so you are ready to answer the questions the Unum representative will ask. They will walk you through the process and also tell you what comes next.

If you delay in contacting Unum or in providing required documentation, it may result in a suspension of paid benefits during your medical leave.

Academic Disability Plan

If your leave of absence is greater than three months, the University provides a self-insured disability benefit that replaces 66.67% to 100% of your covered compensation during months 4 through 12, depending on your years of service with the University (see chart below).

The academic disability benefit is based on your covered compensation in effect on your last full day of active work, and covers salaries up to the IRS 401 (a) (17) limit. The maximum salary limit for 2018 is $275,000 per year. The percentage of your disability benefit is based on years of service and can be determined using the table below.

The University pays the full cost for your disability benefit. That means the disability benefit amount is considered taxable income.

Percent of Covered Compensation Replaced by Disability Benefit

Years of Service Month 4 Through 6 Month 7 Through 9* Month 10 Through Day 365
Less than 2 years of service 66.67% 66.67% 66.67%
2 to 10 years of service 100% 66.67% 66.67%
More than 10 years of service 100% 100% 100%

*Benefits are continued through the end of the academic year for non-A-term appointments.

Adjustments to the disability benefit may be made to correct any overpayment of salary that occurs while you are on medical or disability leave.

Academic Long-Term Disability

Unum will assume responsibility for claim benefit payments beginning with the second year of disability.

The insured long-term disability benefit will be paid directly to you on a monthly basis. You may choose one of two payment options: check or direct deposit.

Long-term disability benefits may be paid to the Social Security Normal Retirement Age with continued certification of disability.

The table shows the maximum number of monthly benefit payments depending on your age when the disability began.

Maximum Benefit Period

Age When Disability Begins Maximum Benefit Period
Under Age 63 The later of your 65th birthday, SSNRA*, or the date the 33rd Monthly Benefit is payable
63 The later of your SSNRA* or the date the 27th Monthly Benefit is payable 
64 The later of your SSNRA* or the date the 21st Monthly Benefit is payable 
65  The date the 15th Monthly Benefit is payable 
66  The date the 12th Monthly Benefit is payable 
67  The date the 9th Monthly Benefit is payable 
68  The date the 6th Monthly Benefit is payable 
Age 69 or older  The date the 3rd Monthly Benefit is payable 

*The SSNRA means the Social Security Normal Retirement Age in effect under the Social Security Act as of the date of Disability.

If you are working part-time, you will no longer be certified as disabled if your work earnings exceed 80 percent of your covered earnings.

Health Insurance, Retirement, and Life Insurance

The next sections explain what will happen with your:

  • UPlan Health coverage
  • Faculty Retirement Plan contribution
  • Life Insurance premium

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Subsidized Health Coverage

You are eligible to remain in the University’s UPlan health plan while you are receiving disability benefits. The University may continue to subsidize your medical, dental, and basic life insurance coverage for a period of time according to the chart below.

The subsidy is the portion of the total cost of your medical, dental, and basic life insurance coverage that the University pays, and it is based on the rate contributed for active employees.

After your subsidy period expires, you may remain in the UPlan by paying the full cost of the coverage.

Years of Service Subsidy During Medical Leave Subsidy During Academic Disability Subsidy During Academic Long-Term Disability With UNUM
Less than 2 years of service 3 months None None
2 to 10 years of service 3 months 9 months None
More than 10 years of service 3 months 9 months 365 days

First year of disability with active appointment: The employee-paid portion of your health coverage will be deducted from the disability benefit paid through the University payroll.

Eligible for a second year of subsidy: You will be billed directly from Employee Benefits for the employee cost of your coverage. When the subsidy ends, you may elect to continue your coverage through the medical and dental plan administrators. They will bill you directly on a monthly basis for the full cost of your coverage.

Partial disability and subsidy: You may continue to qualify for subsidized coverage if you are working 50% time or greater of a 100% time appointment.

Appointment ends while receiving subsidized coverage: You will no longer be eligible for pre-tax deductions through payroll. You will be billed directly from Employee Benefits for the cost of your coverage.

Become eligible for Medicare: You must apply for Medicare Parts A & B. Medicare then becomes primary for coverage and the UPlan is secondary.

Claim Denial

In the event that your claim is not approved by Unum, you may be considered on an unpaid leave of absence, and you will be responsible for the full cost of your medical and dental coverage. You may appeal Unum's claim decision by following the process outlined in your Academic Long-Term Disability Certificate (pdf).

Faculty Retirement Plan Contribution

If you are on an active appointment and are participating in the Faculty Retirement Plan at the onset of disability, you will continue to receive a full contribution to your retirement account while you are receiving disability benefits. The amount of contribution will equal 15.5% of your covered compensation in effect on your last full day of active work.

If you are on a partial disability, you will continue to contribute based on your work earnings and the Academic Disability Program will contribute the remaining amount to equal a full contribution of 15.5% of covered compensation.

Retirement contributions during the first year of disability are made through the University payroll system and are included under Employer Paid Benefits on your pay statement. If you are working part-time, contributions made by you and the University will be included under Before-Tax Deductions and the remaining contribution from the disability program will be included under Employer Paid Benefits.

Beginning with the second year of disability, contributions are made monthly by Unum and are deposited directly with your investment company.

Life Insurance Waiver of Premium

The UPlan life insurance policy 32615-G includes a disability benefit in the form of a premium waiver. If you become totally disabled, all premiums for basic life, additional life, spouse life, and child life insurance coverage in force at the onset of disability will be waived following a six-month waiting period. Subject to continuous certification for total disability, this coverage will remain in force until age 70 without further payment of premium.

If you have a terminal condition (defined as a condition caused by sickness or accident that directly results in a life expectancy of 12 months or less), you may be eligible for an accelerated payment of the benefits provided under this group policy. Visit the Life Insurance section for more information.

Returning to Work

UReturn is the designated office to serve all employees (including faculty and staff) with any disability or medical condition requiring accommodations or adjustments. UReturn obtains and confidentially maintains medical documents, certifies eligibility for services, recommends adjustments or reasonable accommodations, and develops plans for the provision of these for employees with illness or injury. As a neutral party, Access Consultants assist employees and their supervisors in implementing appropriate accommodations/adjustments.

UReturn offers a confidential, voluntary, and neutral service to assist you in a successful return to work. To schedule a meeting with a UReturn Specialist, please call 612-624-3316 or 612-626-1333 (V/TTY), or 218-726-7725 in Duluth.

Additional Resources and Information

Disability Resources


The University takes its responsibility for confidentiality very seriously. Within the Office of Human Resources, disability records are maintained in Employee Benefits and are not included with personnel files.

When you apply for disability benefits, the medical information that you and your health care provider submit may be shared with other pertinent parties. By signing the Authorization to Collect and Disclose Information form from Unum, you are consenting to this release of information.


While the principal features of the Academic Disability Program are described here, these descriptions are subject to all of the terms and conditions of the group disability policies and University policy governing sick and disability leaves.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information. In the event of an error, the plan document for the Academic Disability Program (policy SHD-985157) and the certificate of coverage for the Group Long Term Disability Insurance Policy (LK-980184) will govern. 

For more information, refer to the policy at Paid Medical Leave and Disability Benefits for Faculty and Academic Professional and Administrative Employees.