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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ask the Expert: Disability Insurance Q&A

Ask the Expert: Disability Insurance Q&A with Industry Expert Steve Crawford

I recently spoke with Steve Crawford, President of Guardian Disability Insurance Brokerage based in Rockville, MD. He has been one of Guardian’s leading disability insurance producers nationwide for over a decade. Our discussion ranged over specialized topics I thought my readers would find interesting. In particular, we discussed how diabetics can get the best disability insurance policies, since many of my readers have diabetes and Steve is a diabetic himself.

Richard O’Boyle: When considering the long-term care insurance conversion options of some disability insurance policies, what should a consumer consider? Does it make sense to consider a separate long-term care plan altogether?

Steve Crawford: There are not many individual disability insurance policies on the market that have a long-term care insurance conversion option from the top tier disability insurance carriers. Some of the lesser companies and less comprehensive contracts offer this option, but it is not very common in the industry in terms of percentage of individual disability insurance policies sold. My recommendation to consumers is to own their own individual disability insurance policy during their working years, and sometime in their 50’s to also purchase their own individual long-term care policy. Usually there is about a 10 year period where somebody owns both, but they really protect against two different things.

Richard O’Boyle: When filing a disability insurance claim with your insurer, what should a consumer keep in mind and what are some reasonable expectations about the length of time to get the claim processed?

Steve Crawford: Most disability insurance claims are actually simple to process. When somebody has become blind, or suffers from ALS, or some other type of claim that is pretty cut and dry it is simply a matter of filling out the claim form and getting paid. When a claim is something a little more out of the ordinary, that’s when it may take some time to get paid. Usually the company is going to have a physician fill out the claims form to attest to the disability. A consumer should always remember that disability policies are all about “The Duties Associated with Your Occupation,” not about job titles. As a consumer fills out a claim form they should provide details about why the sickness or injury is preventing them from performing specific duties associated with their occupation, not about the inability to perform a job title. There are many qualified disability insurance claims consultants in the industry, and most of them can be located in the Claims Advice category of http://www.disabilityinsuranceforums.com/, they also tend to offer a lot of free advice on that message board.

Richard O’Boyle: If your disability insurance claim is denied, what avenues of recourse does a policy holder have?

Steve Crawford: You can work with a claims consultant, or an attorney specializing in disability claims to try to overcome a rejected claim. Obviously you can also file complaints with state insurance departments.

Richard O’Boyle: Individuals with diabetes are at increased risk for a host of health complications. How does that impact underwriting for disability insurance? What are some steps individuals can take when applying for disability insurance to improve their chances of getting a standard policy?

Steve Crawford: Diabetics have a very difficult, but not impossible road to obtaining a personal disability insurance policy. The insurance company is going to want to see excellent control of the disease, and that’s not something every diabetic can show. Diabetics who have had health complications, or don’t have perfect control will most likely have to take a graded risk policy from Assurity or Illinois Mutual. Diabetics who have excellent control, who are in good health, and don’t have a history of complications can apply with the top tier policies. They will most likely get a rated policy with a shorter benefit period if they are accepted at all. I recommend every diabetic who applies for disability insurance to work with a specialist in the area. It is not an easy road to get a policy as a diabetic, but it’s a road that is vital for every diabetic to travel.

Richard O’Boyle: If you are considering a private disability insurance policy, how realistic is it to assume that federal Social Security Disability Income will be available to you, and should that form a strong basis for taking a two-year benefit period?

Steve Crawford: Quite frankly that’s a horrible plan. SSDI is extremely difficult to qualify for. You have to be totally and completely disabled with no hope of recovery for a period of at least a year, and expected to last much longer. They deny an overwhelming number of their claim applicants. Any diabetic should get the maximum level of disability insurance protection they can get, and relying on SSDI for coverage is playing Russian Roulette with five bullets in the gun. SSDI is not a program any person should rely on for their family’s income protection.

à If you are in New York and would like to schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation, please contact me directly. If you are not in New York and would like to speak with a licensed disability specialist in your area, please complete this information request form…
à If you are currently exploring your need for disability insurance, you are welcome to download our free Disability Insurance Worksheet to help you better assess how much coverage you might need.

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