Just wondering if I couldn't work anymore, is my only option taking long term disability or is there something else to do. Just trying to prepare and know my facts. Also I have FMLA and am under the impression that a job can't fire you because you take time off. is this true?
Your options are tied first to what is available at your place of employment. Some employers offer short- and long-term disability, which would be your first "line of defense". So read your personnel manual carefully, as each program has specific steps you must take to qualify, and you'd need to know what they are before you start.
No, it is NOT true that you can take FMLA and won't be fired! FMLA generally is used by an employee to support someone in his family who is ill, not as an extension of sick leave. If you KNOW that you're going to be out for awhile, like you have a scheduled surgery, then you can use the FMLA for that (but understand that it is UNpaid leave). Using FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act, in case someone is reading this and doesn't understand what it is) can be very complicated. You should go to the website (just google FMLA) and download the material there.
Your basic question -- can you use FMLA and not be fired -- is not true because if you don't follow the "rules" you can be dismissed (the rules on the web page). And if you're out very long, the employer may not give you the same job back, but perhaps a similar job. And -- like all regulations like this, employers can and will try to figure out ways to circumvent the laws, and you could be dismissed too.
There is also the ADA -- Americans with Disabilities Act. This is not designed to help you reduce your work hours, but instead to help you figure out ways to do your job with reasonalbe accommodation. You would need to do the same job you're doing now, but maybe there are ways you can ease your personal work load. I can't get more specific with ideas without knowing just what you do for a living, but some reasonable accommodations that folks I know have used in the past included things like more breaks during the work day (but increased daily hours) so that they're working for 8 hours but maybe are at the job site for 9, and the additional hour is broken up in to extended breaks. Or maybe simply moving their work space closer to a bathroom, or installing a fan, or ensuring closer parking space, or figuring out how to do the job sitting down rather than standing.
Again, go to the ADA website and download the information there.
Finally your option is SSDI -- Social Security Disability Insurance (or income), or SSI -- Supplemental Security Income. SSDI is more likely your option. You can go to the Social Security webpages and find out more about both of these programs, to see if you're eligible to apply for either (or in some cases, both). In these instances you'd not be working at all but would get some supplemental income from the programs.
This is a VERY preliminary and sketchy overview of what options might be available to you. But you're smart to look at all of these now, when you're not in the middle of a medical crisis and have to make quick decisions! Happy Reading!
...I am not a doctor, nor health professional, and don't pretend to be one, here.....