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Survey Indicates Blasé Attitude Toward Job-Terminating Disabilities

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Portland, MEHere are two bits of bad news: the number of disabled workers in the U.S. is on the rise, even as many Americans remain clueless about the financial impact of being struck down with a disability. Meanwhile, insurance giants such as the Unum Group continue to rake in huge bucks.

Unum (formerly UnumProvident, prior to a March 2007 name-change) handles over 25% of disability insurance policies in the U.S.

job terminating disability wheelchairAccording to the Social Security Administration, the number of disabled workers in the U.S. has risen by 35% since 2000. There are many reasons for this: workers are much more likely to file for mental health disabilities than previously, more women are entering the workplace (women file for disability insurance at a higher rate than their male counterparts), Americans in general are fatter and less fit than in previous decades, etc.

The Social Security Administration estimates that three out of 10 workers, aged 25-65, will experience either an accident or illness that keeps them away from work for three months or longer.

Unfortunately, such facts have yet to percolate down to the American public.

The Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), a Portland, Maine based advocacy group, recently released a "2007 Disability Awareness Survey" based on phone interviews with 1,000 working Americans.

When asked if they knew anyone "who has been disabled because of an illness or accident and has been unable to work for a period of three months or longer" 49% of respondents said "yes". Bizarrely, an almost equal percentage of respondents (54% to be exact) said they weren't concerned about succumbing to such a fate themselves.

Another question on the survey asked respondents if they were confident about their ability to pay "normal living expenses" such as mortgage, rent, food, transportation, medical costs, etc. if their salary or wages were stopped for three months, due to disability. Fully 69% said they were "confident" they could continue to pay such bills. When the question was broadened to a six-month span, this percentage decreased, but only slightly, to 60%.

Such results aren't surprising, considering 57% of respondents said they had never held a household conversation about the financial consequences of a disability that kept them off work for three months.

Scary stuff, given that medical expenses and disability cause over half of all personal bankruptcies and [mortgage foreclosures] in the U.S., states the CDA.

Some Americans, however, are less clueless than others when it comes to disability issues: thanks to public pressure and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labour, the Unum Group recently agreed to reconsider some 300,000 denied disability claims. Unum was accused of being too stringent with their claims benefit process—something the company readily 'fesses up to.

"It's public knowledge that UnumProvident was the subject of regulatory scrutiny involving its claims-handling practises and that our claims practises have changed a result," Unum spokesperson Jim Sabourin was quoted as saying in an April 12, 2007 LA Times article.

Unum shouldn't have a problem rectifying this situation, by honouring some of the 300,000 denied claims. The company pulled in a cool $178.3 million in net income in its first quarter of this year, compared with $73.4 million for the same period in 2006. Apparently, there's money to found in disability—for insurance companies, at least.

If you have been denied coverage, you may want to seek legal help and make sure you are one of those 300,000 claimants to be reconsidered by Unum.

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UnumProvident Legal Help

If you have had a disability claim denied, or if your claim was granted and then later terminated, please contact a lawyer involved in a possible [UnumProvident Lawsuit] who will review your case at no cost or obligation.

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