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26% of Americans are living with a disability[1] and are dealing with the physical and mental ramifications along with the financial fallout of not being able to perform in the same capacity at work. 

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, but their common factor is they make life more difficult. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. 

What is a disability?

A disability is an impairment of the body or mind that restricts your ability to participate in your normal activities, like:

  • Walking and climbing stairs
  • Concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Running errands
  • Hearing or seeing
  • Dressing and bathing[2]

Some people are born with disabilities, but for the purposes of this blog, we are discussing disabilities that come on suddenly due to an illness or an accident.

These disabilities may be short in nature—less than six months—or long term. The average length of a disability is 31.2 months[3].  Regardless of how long these impairments last, going about a normal life without help can be nearly impossible.


Many factors determine your risk for becoming disabled, like certain health conditions, whether you maintain a healthy weight and the type of activities in which you engage. For a better idea of your risk, calculate your Personal Disability Quotient using the calculator provided by the Council for Disability Awareness.

The most common reason people file a disability claim is for injury caused by musculoskeletal disorders. Simply put, these disorders affect the systems that allow people to be mobile, such as the joints, bones, ligaments and supporting tissues[4]. The disability can be short term, as in the case of breaking a bone, or long term from debilitating pain caused by back issues and/or arthritis[5].

The next few common causes include cancer, digestive disorders, mental health issues, drug/alcohol addictions, and complications from diabetes[6].


The best way to prevent getting a disability is to develop a healthy lifestyle: 

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol intake, don’t do illegal drugs
  • Get regular cancer screenings
  • Control diabetes through lifestyle and medication
  • Practice safety  to avoid accidents
  • Treat any mental health issues or addictions[7]

Despite our best efforts, a disability may occur, and for the average American employee, six months or more without a paycheck is a big challenge. That’s where disability coverage comes in to help you and your family cope until you’re recovered and back to work.

Once you’ve determined your risk, it’s time to consider if disability insurance coverage is right for you.

How can a disability affect your livelihood?

Medical bills, even for short-term disabilities, can be overwhelming.  Add the lack of a paycheck and the added expenses of being disabled, like needing extra help around the house, and you can see how being disabled can cause people to experience increasing and oftentimes, extreme debt accumulation.

The Federal Reserve reports that 39% of Americans don’t have enough money on hand to cover a $400 emergency[8] and just 39% of Americans could pay for a $1,000 emergency expense[9].

Disability insurance does not replace your entire income, but it can ease the burden and provide a buffer until you’re back on your feet.


What about worker’s compensation?


Disabilities covered by disability insurance are not only those that are incurred on the job. It covers many types of illnesses, accidents, and injuries, depending on policy specifics. And while an on-the-job disability may be covered by worker’s compensation, only 1 percent of disabilities are work-related[10].

Disability insurance-your safety net

Chances are you can’t build a sufficient emergency fund overnight. But you can get disability insurance. Know your options. There are two main types of disability insurance:

Short-term disability

  • Typically replaces 60% -70% of base salary
  • Covers a few months to one year, depending on the policy
  • May have a short waiting period after you become disabled and before benefits are paid

Long-term disability

  • Typically replaces 40%-60% of base salary
  • Benefits end when the disability ends. If disability continues, benefits end after a certain number of years or at retirement age
  • 90 days is a common waiting period after disability and before benefits are paid

How to get coverage:

Social Security 
If you qualify to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the average benefit amount in 2020 was $1,503 per month, but you could potentially receive less than this amount[11].  

But don’t hold your breath while waiting for disability from Social Security: There is usually a five-month waiting period before benefits begin and fewer than 4 in 10 are awarded benefits[12].

Many employers offer disability coverage that you can enroll in. Typically, employers pay for some or all of the cost of premiums. While that sounds great, make sure the coverage is enough to meet your financial needs. Also, remember, if you leave your job, the coverage may not leave with you.

Supplemental /Voluntary 
Not all employers pay for disability coverage but offer it as a voluntary benefit.  This means you purchase and pay the entire premium for the coverage. If your employer doesn’t offer disability, or it’s not enough coverage, supplemental disability helps fill the gaps. Plus, if you ever become disabled and need to use the coverage, the benefits will be tax-free. And you own the policy—if you leave your job, your coverage moves with you (as long as you continue to pay for it).

How much disability coverage do you need?

Add your information into the Life Happens to estimate what you need to maintain your standard of living if you became disabled.

Being able to earn a living is one of your most important assets. Make sure it has the protection you need with the disability insurance that’s right for your needs.

Invest in peace of mind

Chances are many of us will experience an illness or injury that requires time away from work in our lifetimes. Disability insurance helps protect quality of life during recovery so we can focus on healing, not on mounting expenses.  Learn more about Combined Insurance’s Income Protector, and request to see an agent today!











[10] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (Annual) 2016, Table1 Incidence rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses by industry and case types, cases with days away from work