Glossary: California State Disability Insurance (SDI)

The yearlong period that SDI uses to determine your regular wages. It starts around 17 months before your disability and ends around 5 months before then. Your base period is divided into 4 quarters, and the quarter with the highest wage is used to determine your benefit amount.

Weekly income replacement that generally lasts a maximum of 52 weeks. Benefits based on self-employment elective coverage are generally paid for a maximum of 39 weeks.

Payments are based on an individual’s income during the SDI program’s base period, which is prior to the onset of disability.

A trained expert who can help you understand and apply for benefit programs. Their goal is to help you develop a plan for your future and organize your financial life to run as smoothly as possible.

  • For questions about work and your Social Security benefits, use Social Security's "Find Help" tool to locate a WIPA project near you. You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 / 1-866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD). The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) also has Work Incentives Planners (WIPs).
  • If you need assistance with your Medicare, the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program can help. HICAP provides free information and counseling to people with Medicare. You can call HICAP at 1-800-434-0222 or visit the HICAP website.
  • If you need assistance with Medi-Cal and have a disability, you can contact Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746 or visit their website. You may also be able to get help with Medi-Cal from a local legal aid organization. The Health Consumer Alliance website has a lot of useful information about Medi-Cal, including a web page that can direct you to a local legal organization for assistance.
  • If you have questions or need assistance with a program or benefit not listed here, contact an Independent Living Center. Independent Living Centers provide peer support and information on a wide range of topics for people with disabilities.

Any illness or injury which prevents an individual from doing their regular or customary work. SDI includes disabilities resulting from elective surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The disability must be verifiable by a medical provider. The SDI program may require some applicants to undergo an Independent Medical Examination to determine disability status.

Optional State Disability Insurance (SDI) for the self-employed. Individuals must pay premiums based on self-employment taxes. Unlike SDI for employees, elective coverage generally provides income replacement benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks.

Your earned income (before taxes and other deductions are made) plus your unearned income.

The adjustment of payments when an individual is eligible for more than one benefit program.

For California State Disability Insurance (SDI), a medical provider is the person who gives a medical certification of your disability for your application for SDI benefits.

Depending on your disability, your medical provider can be a:

  • Licensed medical or osteopathic doctor
  • Medical officer at a U.S. government facility
  • Chiropractor
  • Podiatrist
  • Optometrist
  • Dentist
  • Psychologist
  • Nurse practitioner or physician assistant (after examination and collaboration with doctor or surgeon)
  • Licensed midwife, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner for normal pregnancy or childbirth, or
  • Accredited religious practitioner

Payment that exceeds the approved benefit amount.

A regularly scheduled payment to an insurer or health care plan.

Payments made for the period between disability onset and application approval.

A California program that replaces some of your income when you can't work because of a non-work related disability.

A program that replaces income and provides for medical treatment when you can't work because of on-the-job injuries.