Disability Insurance: A Financial Priority

By Connell, Kathleen | The Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Disability Insurance: A Financial Priority


Connell, Kathleen, The Christian Science Monitor


Nancy Starnes recalls her motivation to recover after a private- plane accident in 1973 left her with no sensation below her hips.

"I knew my 5-year-old son and my husband needed me. I didn't accept that I couldn't recover. I was committed to gaining mobility and control over my life," says Ms. Starnes, now senior vice president of the National Organization on Disability.

Ms. Starnes was required to rely on a wheelchair. After nine months of difficult rehab, she returned to the brokerage firm where she had been training to be a trader. The firm encouraged her to return, staying in contact and assuring her that she would have a job when she was ready.

Since then, Starnes's has held position in local elected office, county disability associations, and, for the past 10 years, at national disability associations in Washington.

"One doesn't have to walk in order to work. Focus on how you can stay employed. The ability to work is a major component to recovery," she says.

Few readers may identify with Starnes, unable to forsee a future where disability affects their opportunities to work, care for themselves, or enjoy personal pursuits. Unfortunately, many experience a car accident, sport injury, or household fall that may cause short-term disability (defined as lasting less than 90 days), according to the Social Security Administration. .

"This is a community that anyone can join in an instant," reminds Mike Deland, president emeritus of the National Organization On Disability.

Craig Gray experienced this at age 24 when an auto accident left him a paraplegic. Mr. Gray was fortunate that his employer, K-Mart, where he was working as a sporting-goods manager, had a long-term disability policy that enabled him to acquire retraining as a computer programmer.

Gray's first job as a programmer in the disability-insurance industry eventually led to his current position as vice president in the "Return To Life" program at Prudential Insurance. He echoes Starnes's sentiment about recovery. "You need to regain a sense of yourself, retrain, and then return to work. A disability policy gives you the asset-base support needed in those transitional months."

A disability during your working years can leave you deprived of income and the ability to make major payments. Without disability support, a vicious cycle of financial reversals quickly occur. Except for those with a large amount of savings, people who suddenly become disabled are often unable to pay their mortgage, healthcare premiums, credit-card bills, auto loans, utilities, and any pension or college-savings contributions.

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