Disability insurance lightens load after rough patch

Disability insurance lightens load after rough patch

Work Wisdom

Disability insurance lightens load after rough patch

One in four 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a disabling condition before they reach retirement age. Do you have enough money to pay your bills if an injury prevents you from working? Would your two-income family survive on just one?

Disability insurance lightens load after rough patch
Bill Powers, Unum customer

Unum customer Bill Powers hadn’t really considered what would happen if the unexpected occurred. At 74, life as a respiratory care practitioner in Texas was good. He was in great health. He took more than 13,000 steps a day when the average American takes about 5,000. While most Americans hope to retire at 62, Bill has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.

He loves helping people too much.

But Bill recently joined the ranks of people who have to slow down: those who get sick or injured and are unable to work.

The signs of a health risk showed up slowly. First, he lost some flexibility in his ankle, causing his foot to slap the floor. Next, he started tripping when walking. Then one night, Bill awoke with severe pain in his leg.

A CT scan revealed a torn tendon. Bill had surgery but didn’t expect to be sidelined for long. Fortunately, he wasn’t among the 51 million working Americans without disability insurance other than the basic coverage available through Social Security.

Bill has short term (STD) and long term disability (LTD) insurance with Unum. After surgery, he started collecting his short term disability benefit, which helped him cover the bills.

Everything was going according to plan, then the unthinkable happened – his recovery stalled and winter storm Uri brought subzero temperatures to Texas.

“Things started piling up,” Bill said. “My leg wasn’t getting better and began to atrophy. I had no idea if I’d ever be able to work again, and our financial situation was uncertain. When our power went out and my wife couldn’t get home, I felt trapped, helpless and depressed.”

Because he expected to miss only a few months of work, he never submitted a claim to receive his LTD benefit, which typically begins where STD coverage leaves off.

LTD coverage can last from several months to several years and depending on the plan, it can pay up to 60% of a worker’s salary. It’s known as income protection, but without it, Bill’s wife had to work long hours to make ends meet.

“She worked overtime to help with the bills,” he said. “It was a real burden on her. We were in jeopardy of losing our car. Thankfully, it never got to that.”

Bill’s claim was assigned to Kerry Audet, a benefits specialist at Unum, who gathered the necessary medical records even though months had passed since the initial claim was filed.

“Knowing that he was experiencing a really tough time in his life put a strong emphasis on why I do this job – to help people. We all take great pride in our work at Unum, and situations like this make me proud to work here.”

Kerry Audet, Unum benefits specialist

With Kerry’s help, Bill received more than $20,000 in back benefits and now collects a monthly benefit until he’s able to return to work.

“Kerry was a godsend,” Bill said. “When he called with that news, I started crying. It was an enormous weight lifted. It’s surprising how many people don’t have disability insurance. You have to protect yourself because you never know what will happen. I’m a testament to that.”

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