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5 Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Insurance, Answered

It won’t happen to me.

When it comes to disabilities, that’s often the mindset we take. However, according to the “2019 Ultimate Guide to Physician Disability Insurance“, roughly 25 percent of American workers will experience a form of disability at some point in their career.

Whether your condition is long-term, short-term, or recurring, disability insurance is the most effective way to protect your source of income. To help you better understand the ins-and-outs of disability insurance, we’ve documented our answers to the top five questions that we field on a regular basis as an independent broker.

1. When is the best time to purchase disability insurance?

Frankly, the best time to apply for disability insurance is right now. When it comes to cost, disability insurance is just like any other type of insurance; it only gets more expensive as you age.

For this reason (and many others discussed in this article), you should consider putting an individual long-term policy in place early on in your career – before you begin working if possible.

Contrary to popular belief, approximately 90% of disability claims are attributed to illnesses, not physical injuries. The most common disabling illnesses include:

  1. Arthritis.
  2. Depression.
  3. Diabetes.
  4. Cancer.
  5. Heart disease.

Needless to say, you cannot afford to wait until you’re sick or injured to obtain sufficient disability insurance coverage.

2. How do I collect disability insurance benefits if I become unable to work?

In the event that you do experience a disabling condition that prevents you from working, disability insurance replace a substantial chunk of your income. It can serve as a vital financial backstop to help you sustain your standard of living and minimize financial strain on your loved ones.

To make sure your policy is in full-effect, there are several time-specific terms you will want to take note of:

  1. Effective date: This is the day that your disability insurance policy officially becomes active.
  2. Elimination period: Also known as the waiting period, this is the amount of time you must be disabled for prior to receiving disability benefits. Elimination periods can range anywhere from 30-365 days depending on the policy.
  3. Commencement date: This is the day after the completion of the elimination period. You are now eligible to receive benefits for a covered disability.

Although buying an individual disability insurance policy is often the recommended route, certain types of organizations will offer group plans as well. If you do choose to participate in your employer’s group plan, you should still supplement this coverage with an individual policy.

That’s because what constitutes a disability and how you can qualify to collect disability benefits varies greatly by carrier and policy type. After filing for disability benefits, your insurance carrier will either approve or decline your claim. If your insurer denies your disability insurance claim, it is best to call an experienced disability insurance attorney immediately. This individual will help you navigate the process, from application to appeal to a potential lawsuit.

3. Why are there different definitions of disability?

While the renewability provision of a disability insurance policy stipulates the duration of time you may keep your policy and at what premium, it is the insurance policy’s definition of disability that determines whether or not you will receive benefits.

There are various definitions of disability that are generally used in disability insurance policies, including:

  1. True own occupation: Under the true own occupation definition of disability, you’re considered disabled when you’re unable to perform the duties of your exact professional specialty. This makes it a must-have for physicians, dentists and other medical professionals.
  2. Transitional own occupation: Also known as limited own-occupation, this policy provision recognizes you as disabled if you’re incapable of performing your own occupation but can still perform another occupation so long as you do not earn more than you previously did.
  3. Any occupation: Under this definition, you’re considered disabled if you’re incapable of engaging in any occupation for profit or remuneration. You will only receive benefits if you can longer work in any capacity. This makes it the most restrictive definition of disability.
  4. Partial disability: Under this definition, you’re considered partially disabled if you’re incapable of performing one or more duties of your regular occupation. There’s no requirement that you suffer any income loss.
  5. Residual disability: Similar to partial disability, you are recognized as disabled if you’re incapable of performing one or more duties of your regular occupation. However, unlike partial disability, there is a requirement that you have a loss of time or duties and suffer an income loss of at least 20%.

As you can see, navigating the various definitions of disability is no small task. When selecting a provision for your policy, it’s crucial that you ask any and all questions you may have before making a decision.

4. What are the best riders to add to my disability insurance policy?

Once you’ve determined how much disability insurance coverage you need and what type of policy best fits your situation, it’s time to explore various riders. Disability insurance riders are optional features that you can add to your policy to maximize your coverage.

Some of the most common riders include:

  1. Cost of living adjustment rider: This additional feature offsets the risk of inflation by providing an increase in benefits due to changes in the cost of living.
  2. Residual or partial disability rider: The additional feature provides disability insurance benefits if you suffer an established percentage of income loss due to injury or illness.
  3. Return of premium rider: The additional feature allows you to get back your entire premium paid throughout the term of the policy if you never claim benefits.

Although beneficial to many, your personal situation may not call for all (or any) of these riders. On the other hand, your coverage needs may require other riders not listed here. Once again, this underscores the importance of due diligence when it comes to maximizing your disability insurance coverage.

5. What if I’m late with my premium payment?

Should you be late with your premium payment, a termination of coverage may occur. As a result of the termination, you may not be eligible for benefits. At times, however, there are circumstances in which your coverage may still be extended even when you’re delinquent or late on premium payments.

To avoid this altogether, approach your monthly disability insurance payments like you would any other recurring bill you pay. As you can see, it is a key component of your personal finances and should be treated as such.

This guest post was authored by Colin Nabity, Founder & CEO of LeverageRx – a digital lending and insurance network for medical professionals.



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