Young Group of Professionals talkingYou are a healthy, active person who tries to eat right, exercise, and doesn’t engage in dangerous hobbies or activities. Like most Americans, you never think you could become too sick or injured to work. Your ability to get up and go to work every day is one of the most important aspects of your life. Your paycheck allows you to pay your mortgage or rent and put food on the table for your family. It also allows you to enjoy vacations and provide a future for your family and yourself. 

But do you know the chance of an injury or illness preventing you from working? Let's examine a couple of disability insurance statistics.

  • More than one in four 20-year-olds today will be unable to work due to an illness or injury for one year or more before retirement.1
  • For all age groups, about one out of every eight workers will experience a long-term disability that lasts longer than five years.2

Yet, most people never believe they will ever be that person. And if they have ever considered it, most feel that a car accident would be the reason they could not go to work and earn a paycheck. Let’s take a moment to look at the top five reasons (disability insurance statistics) for long-term disability claims.

Top 5 Causes for Long-Term Disability Claims3

  1. Musculoskeletal Disorders account for 29% of long-term disability claims.  These include disorders affecting the back, spine, knees, hips, shoulders, etc.

  2. Cancer is 15% of long-term disability claims

  3. Pregnancy and complications account for 9.4% of long-term disability claims

  4. Mental and Nervous disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. are 9.1% of long-term disability claims

  5. Injuries account for 9% of all long-term disability claims

You probably can think of someone you know – or maybe even more than just one - who has experienced one of these disorders or injuries while in their working years. While we do not want to think about ourselves as ill or injured, the reality is that it can happen to someone we know, it can also happen to us.

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The average disability lasts 34.6 months.5  That is just under 3 years.  Could you take off 3 years from work and still pay your bills from your savings?  Just about 50% of Americans, in a 2018 survey, said they do not have enough savings to cover more than 3 months of their current bills, and some even admitted they would not even be able to cover a $400 emergency without needing a loan or selling something6.  But if you are a good saver, how long would your savings last if you could not earn a paycheck?  Given the average American income and average expenses, if you save 5% of your income for 10 years, it would be gone after about 6 months if you had to use it to pay your bills and living expenses.  It is safe to say, that no matter how much you try to save, it would not be adequate to cover all your bills during a long-term illness or injury.

Worker’s Compensation

Your employer may be required by law to cover all their employees under a Worker’s Compensation plan.  However, if you are self-employed, or you are the employer, you may not be covered by this plan.  Even if you are an employee and covered by such a plan, most illnesses and injuries do NOT occur at the workplace or due to the workplace, therefore, Worker’s Compensation would not cover this event.


How long and how much would your family or friends be willing to give you to help out with your bills if you were sick or injured and could not work?  Recognizing that more than half of Americans cannot even cover their own bills if they could not work for more than 90 days, your friends and family probably do not have the funds to offer, even if they wanted to help, or at least not for very long.  And do you think a bank would approve you for a loan, without being actively at work?  Most likely not.

Group or Employer-Sponsored Long-Term Disability Plans

There are some employers who offer Group Long Term Disability (Group LTD) as a part of their benefits packages.  But, how much do you know about that plan?  If the employer offers it as a “free” benefit, where they pay your premiums.  However, if you do collect under the policy, you have to pay taxes on any benefits you receive.  The typical group LTD covers 60 or 66 2/3 of your typical monthly income.  Once you pay the taxes on that benefit, you are only bringing home 40% of your income.  And if you are a highly compensated employee the plan monthly maximum may even further reduce the monthly amount you receive and still need to pay taxes on, or some of your compensation may not be considered in the formula, such as bonuses, commissions, stock purchases, etc.

Individual Disability Insurance Policy

This is the best, most secure option for protecting your paycheck in the unfortunate event that you are too sick or injured and cannot work.  You are paying your own premiums for this coverage, therefore, the benefits are tax-free.  Typically, with no other group coverage, you can purchase an individual disability insurance policy that will cover 40-65% of your income.  But remember, it will be a tax-free benefit if you collect, so you will actually bring home closer to 70-80% of your normal after-tax paycheck you were used to.  Even if you do have group LTD through your employer, you may be eligible for a smaller individual policy above what the group plan pays, to bridge that gap between what the group benefit, after you pay taxes, looks like and what your paycheck you bring home looks like. 
1 Social Security Administration Fact Sheet

Commissioner’s Disability Insurance Tables A and C, assuming equal weights by gender and occupation class

3 Integrated Benefits Institute, Health and Productivity Benchmarking 2019 (released September 2020), Long-Term Disability, All Employers. Condition-specific results. https://files.ibiweb.org/uploads/general/Sample-Reports.zip

David U. Himmelstein, Robert M. Lawless, Deborah Thorne, Pamela Foohey, Steffie Woolhandler, “Medical Bankruptcy: Still Common Despite the Affordable Care Act,” American Journal of Public Health 109, no. 3 (March 1, 2019): pp. 431 – 433. See Table 1. Free access available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6366487/

Council for Disability Awareness, The Average Duration of Long-Term Disability is 31.2 Months (Jan. 2016), https://blog. disabilitycanhappen.org/the-average-duration-of-long-term-disability-is-31-2-months

6 Federal reserve, “Money in the Bank? Assessing Families’ Liquid Savings using the Survey of Consumer Finance,” FEDS Notes, November 19, 2018, https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/assessing-families-liquid-savings-using-the-survey-of-consumer-finances-20181119.htm, Table 1.


2024-175176 Exp: 5/30/26