Disability insurance can be complicated. If you have questions about how disability insurance works, types of disability insurance, how to get coverage, and how exactly it’s different from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), we’ve got answers for you.
A Policygenius agent can answer any other questions and help you get disability insurance quotes for free.
General disability insurance questions
What does disability insurance do?
You can use disability insurance to replace your income when you’re hurt or sick and can’t work. A policy can replace your income for a few months or for years (and even decades) after you can’t work.
Do you really need disability insurance?
You need disability insurance if you wouldn’t be able to cover your expenses after losing your income for months or years during a disability, especially if you’re someone with a high-paying, specialized job.
Disability insurance is usually worth the cost because it’s the easiest and most affordable way for you to protect your income and the investment you made in yourself if you can’t work due to a disability.
What kind of disability insurance should you get?
You should get long-term over short-term disability insurance. Long-term disability insurance can cover your expenses while you can’t work for as little as a year and up to the time you’re ready to retire (usually around age 65 to 67).
Short-term disability insurance only covers you for three to six months in most cases.
When is the right time to purchase disability insurance?
The best time to get disability insurance is when you’re young and can lock in cheaper rates. That said, if you’re older and don’t have disability insurance yet, it’s still worth getting.
How much coverage should I have?
You need enough disability insurance to cover your living expenses while you’re out of work, including everything from your rent or mortgage, car payments, student loans, and your groceries and utilities.
Do you need disability insurance if you have a policy through work?
Private disability insurance, which you buy for yourself, is better than group disability insurance through your job. Group disability insurance usually comes with less coverage than a private policy. You also don’t have control over your group disability benefits.
How much does disability coverage cost?
Expect the cost of disability insurance to be between 1% and 3% of your annual salary, but your exact costs depend on your policy’s benefits and your age, medical history, and policy details like your waiting and benefit periods.
Questions about your policy
What are a disability policy’s exclusions?
Exclusions are situations when your disability insurance doesn’t cover you. Common exclusions include disabilities caused by a self-inflicted injury, war or military action, and pre-existing conditions.
What is a disability insurance elimination period?
Your policy’s elimination or waiting period is the amount of time between your injury or illness and when you can receive your disability benefits. Most of the time, you can choose between an elimination period of 30, 60, 90, 180, 365, or 730 days.
A longer elimination period is cheaper, but might not be an option if you can’t live off of your savings.
What is the benefit period?
Your benefit period is the time that you can receive disability insurance benefits. You can choose to receive benefits for one year or more, up to the time it takes you to get to retirement age, which is usually between 65 and 67.
What are riders on a disability insurance policy?
An insurance rider is a feature that changes your disability policy’s coverage. Some riders are free, while others cost extra. Some riders that it might be worth adding include:
Catastrophic disability benefit: Covers up to 100% of your lost income right away when you can no longer do two or more basic-living activities, like bathing, dressing yourself, or using the bathroom.
Cost of living adjustment (COLA): Automatically increases your benefits each year to account for inflation.
Future increase option: Allows you to purchase additional disability insurance, up to a certain age, without having to go through medical underwriting again.
Guaranteed renewable option: Guarantees your insurance company can’t change or cancel a policy as long as you keep paying the premiums.
Own-occupation coverage: Lets you collect disability benefits when you can’t work your specific job, even if you can work another one.
Residual disability benefits: Pays partial benefits when your disability reduces your income but you’re still able to work.
Student loan rider: Contributes money toward your student loans when you become disabled.
Questions about getting disability insurance
What’s the best disability insurance company?
The best disability insurance depends on what kind of coverage you need, your budget, job, and income. For example, if you’re a higher earner who works in a non-manual job, your best disability insurance is different from someone with a lower income and a manual job.
How long does it take to get disability insurance?
It depends. When you shop for disability insurance, you have to go through a medical underwriting process before you can get coverage (the disability insurance company pays for the cost of any medical tests you have to undergo).
This can take five to six weeks, but might be longer if the disability insurance company requests more information.
Can you get disability insurance with a pre-existing condition?
Yes, you can still get disability insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. There are some exceptions, but most of the time you just won’t receive any coverage if you can’t work because of your pre-existing condition.
Do I have to provide proof of income to get disability insurance?
Yes, you have to show proof of your income before you can get disability insurance. Most of the time, you can submit tax returns, W2s, other tax forms, and business contracts to prove your income.
Should you get disability insurance through a broker?
It can be smart to get your disability insurance through a broker instead of directly from an insurance company. An independent broker, like Policygenius, can help you compare quotes from multiple insurance companies and answer questions about your policy, so you can make an informed decision on your coverage.
Questions about making disability insurance claims
Can you make a disability insurance claim if you’re laid off?
You can’t make a disability insurance claim because you’ve been laid off. You can only make a claim while an injury or illness keeps you from working.
That said, your disability policy stays with you while you’re in between jobs (as long as it’s not a group policy).
How do you make a disability insurance claim?
You need to provide proof of your disability to make a claim by filling out a claim packet with a statement from you, your doctor, and your employer about your disability, plus any other requirements your insurance company has.
How difficult is it to make a disability claim?
Depending on the insurer and the type of claim, the claims process can be complicated and take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months. Major claims involving disability insurance lawyers and claims consultants can take even longer.
Questions about Social Security
How is Social Security Disability different from personal disability insurance?
There are a few key differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and a personal policy. SSDI is free and has fixed benefits, so you can’t choose how much you get like you can with a personal policy.
Who can get disability benefits from Social Security?
Your Social Security eligibility is determined in part by work credits. You can earn credits by working and earning an income. You have to earn anywhere from 6 to 20 work credits in a set period of time to qualify for coverage depending on your age. You can earn up to 4 credits per year.
Does my benefit coordinate with government benefits (such as worker’s compensation or Social Security)?
Some disability policies pay your full benefit regardless of whether you qualify for workers' compensation or Social Security Disability Insurance. Other times you need to apply for government benefits under the terms of your policy.