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Disability: The Living Death

Posted on August 25th, 2016

A number of years ago, a good friend of mine (I’ll call him Joe) was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Joe was in his late 30s with three children under the age of 10. His company made some concessions so Joe was able to work for a few more years, but eventually, the company could no longer accommodate his disability.

The good news was that Joe had purchased a disability insurance policy that paid him a portion of his salary. The bad news was that the benefit period was only five years. As is typical, the company didn’t provide any disability insurance protection. However, Joe was able to apply for Social Security disability payments. With his obvious disability, one would have expected the approval process from Social Security to be nearly automatic. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. After about two years, Joe was finally approved for Social Security disability payments. The amount of money he received from Social Security was very helpful but was not nearly enough to meet their needs. If his children had not received a Social Security payment in addition to Joe’s, the result would have been devastating.

Joe’s church was a huge help financially, and emotionally, reminding us of the importance of having a church “family” to put their arms around you during a crisis.

Joe lived for many years after being diagnosed with MS. It was great to have Joe around for fellowship and to help raise his family, although his disabilities hindered the amount of help he could provide. Joe was a living reminder of the difficulties a family deals with when the main bread winner loses his ability to provide for his family.

A disability has been referred to as a “living death,” since the disabled person is not able to contribute toward their care but still needs to be cared for. Because of this, I have advised some people in the past that if they could afford only life insurance or disability insurance, they should buy the disability insurance. Don’t misunderstand me–I think both are very important, especially when most people can buy term life insurance relatively inexpensively.

There is a good reason why disability insurance is more expensive than life insurance. The insurance company prices these products based on the likelihood of a claim being filed. According to the National Underwriter 2016 Field Guide, the odds of experiencing at least one long-term disability before age 65 is 47% at age 30; 43% at age 40; and 36% at age 50.

Life and disability insurance is typically “sold,” not “bought.” However, I hope you will at least consider contacting your insurance agent (preferably one who is independent and can shop several carriers for you) and consider protecting you and your family from the potentially devastating effects of a long-term disability.

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