Disability Awareness CalendarEmployees who don't have disability insurance are less likely toreturn to work after an incident, which increases turnover at atime when the labor market is tight. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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The best way to celebrate Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM) isto keep more of your clients and their employees safeguardedagainst financial fragility in the wake of disability.Disability insurance is always important, but DIAM in May can be agreat time to emphasize the need for and value of these products.Consider these tips to increase your case rate.

1. Remind clients about the likelihood of disability

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You probably know some of the troubling statistics behinddisability as well as anyone. But do your clients?

  • One out of every four 20-year-olds will become disabled beforethey turn 67, according to the U.S. Social SecurityAdministration
  • The average disability claim lasts 31.6 months, or nearly threeyears, according to the Council for Disability Awareness
  • Only 1/3 of the people who apply for Social Security Disability are approved
  • The average payment from SSDI is only $1,171 per month, rightat the poverty level

These figures illustrate why it's so important to have privateinsurance in place. Employers should also understand the businessvalue of offering group disability to their employees.

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Related: Long-term disability insurance gets littleattention but can pay off big time

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According to Metlife's Annual Employee Benefits Study, 64percent of employees say having insurance would increase loyalty totheir employer. On the other hand, employees who don't havedisability insurance are less likely to return to work after anincident, which increases turnover at a time when the labor market is tight.

2. Connect disability to life events

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People sometimes have trouble thinking of themselves becomingdisabled. And while health insurance and savings can offset costsfor medical issues, many don't think about how they'll keep thelights on if they're unable to work for a while.

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What they can imagine, though, is going through various stages of their life—getting married,starting a first job, buying a house or having a baby—allsituations that should cause employees to think about theirfinancial stability.

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As a broker, advise your client about products around these lifeevents, and help them relay the need for various types of benefitsduring these tangible, everyday examples that employees can grabonto.

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For example, after someone has a baby, they'll likely want totap into FMLA. But do they understand that short-termdisability can ensure they have an income for a portion of thattime? That's right, short-term disability isn't just for illness orinjury; maternity leave is also covered by many plans. Likewise,many states and employers offer or require additional provisionsfor maternity/paternity. Do your clients' employees know how toplan around these various offerings during the huge financial shiftthat comes with having a child?

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Buying a home is another crucial time to consider insurance. Anew house likely means new mortgage payments, which won't stopafter someone becomes disabled. Insurance would help them keep upwith the bills.

3. Tailor presentations by generation

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Different age groups have different prioritiesand concerns. To help your points land, tailor your pitch to youraudience's generation or to the demographics of your client'semployee population. With millennials now making up much of theworkforce, clients may need to educate employees on the prevalenceof disability and encourage them to invest in that financial safetynet now, when they're feeling invincible, rather than after anevent occurs.

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And events aren't always the big moments that pop into our headswhen we hear “disability.” Injuries can happen any time. Forexample, slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of lost daysfrom work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Anotherreminder to boost participation is that at the start of theircareer, employees have less vacation time available. It's notlikely that time will be sufficient after a disability; plus, itdepletes their days off for wellness and time with family.

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Gen X should know that they are entering theirpeak earning years. Over the next 20 years, they'll earn more thanthey ever did before. They should protect that income withinsurance to capitalize on that income and protect the financesthey may not want to miss as they approach retirement.

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For boomers, point out that the risks of heart disease, cancer,diabetes and other serious health problems that can cause adisability all increase as they get older. They should also knowthat disability insurance could still be available, but the longerthey wait to sign up, the lower their chances of qualifying.

4. Advise on related products

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As you review disability, it's an opportunity to discuss relatedproducts as well. In 2016, an estimated 25 million Americansenrolled in high-deductible health insurance, where the deductibleis about twice the amount of a PPO deductible.

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When someone on these plans gets injured or sick, not only willthey miss work, but they also could face huge medical bills. As thecost continues to shift to employees, employers are increasinglyembracing voluntary benefits and employees are more prone to say“yes” to income protection as well.

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Leave is also a hot topic in the industry, but it can be verycomplicated, and regulations change or are under discussion almostdaily. Whether under a state mandate or administering a privateleave policy, your discussion of disability also provides anopportunity to ensure your clients are well-versed on thecomplexities of leave and how the various types of leave work inlockstep with other benefits.

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You might not have time to track every detail of leave, but yourcarrier should have specialists who can. They can educate yourclients on this important topic and position you as a technicalexpert.

5. Take advantage of available resources

The Council for Disability Awareness is a nonprofit withthe mission to educate Americans on the risks of disability andsteps they can take to protect themselves—namely, getting the rightinsurance in place.

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The CDA provides free support to help insurance professionalsenroll more clients. They offer infographics and other clientmaterials, training and continued education for insuranceprofessionals, and networking events.

6. Get support from your carriers

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Your insurance carriers are also there to assist during DIAM.They can provide you with additional support materials for yourclient presentations and even send in a representative to helpanswer questions, if you're comfortable bringing them in. Be surethe carriers you're working with are well equipped to handlequestions but also provide much-needed administration support forclients that may need help navigating or managing theirbenefits.


Gregory Breter has been with Unum for more than 23 years. He began hiscareer as a disability benefit specialist and has held variouspositions within the benefits organization throughout thistime.

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