Disability Awareness Month Highlights Need for Disability Insurance Among Americans

Despite startling statistics, less than half of workers have short-term disability and only about 40% have long-term disability insurance policies.

May 07, 2013

The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) has sponsored Disability Insurance Awareness Month for May to encourage Americans to address their disability income needs. According to the Social Security Administration, three in 10 workers entering the workforce today will become disabled before retiring. At age 42, individuals are four times more likely to become seriously disabled than to die during their working years. Despite these startling statistics, less than half of workers have short-term disability and only about 40% have long-term disability insurance policies.

"The risk for becoming disabled at some point during your working years is high, but Americans are not purchasing disability insurance plans at a rate that reflects the risk. Some of the top reasons I hear for not investing in this type of insurance are that it's too expensive, workers believe they are already covered under an employer-sponsored plan or through the Social Security Administration, or they simply feel they'd rather take the risk," says Frank N. Darras, America's top disability lawyer.

Unfortunately, a disability benefit provided by the Social Security Administration isn't the safest or most reliable option. 45% of those who initially apply for disability benefits through Social Security are denied. For those who are granted disability benefits, the average benefit is just $1,063 a month. That's hardly enough to replace the average worker's income.

"If those statistics aren't enough to make you second guess relying solely on the government to meet your disability needs, recent reports say that the government disability insurance program is underfunded and will exhaust its trust fund by 2016. It's likely that the program will continue to exist, but approvals will become few and far between and benefits will become even smaller," says Darras.

Another common misperception is that injured workers' full salaries are covered under Worker's Compensation or an employer-sponsored long-term disability plan. Worker's compensation will pay out benefits to injured workers, but only when the disability is work-related. 73% of disability injuries or illnesses don't fall into this category and occur from a source out of the workplace. In addition, while employer-sponsored long-term disability plans are usually the best and most affordable option, more than 70% of employers do not offer long-term disability coverage according to the National Safety Council.

"There are 54 million people in the United States living with a disability. The question you have to ask yourself is what would you do if you no longer had the ability to work? Is it worth putting yourself or your family's financial future at risk?" says Darras.

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