Disability insurance is a protection policy against income loss resulting from an illness, injury, or other disabling condition that prohibits you from working. Disability insurance is also known as disability income, income protection insurance, or DI. There are two main types of disability insurance: short-term and long-term. Short-term disability insurance pays benefits for a few months, up to 2 years in most cases. This type of policy is suitable for people who suffer minor injuries or brief disabilities, such as a bone fracture, an appendectomy, or pregnancy without complications. When more serious disabilities come into play, long-term disability is usually more useful. Such is the case of people who suffer from cancer and complications of its treatment, heart disease, and other conditions that may take people up to several years to recover from, or disabilities that are permanent, such as the loss of a limb or degenerative illnesses.

All policies include three main components: the benefit period, or the total number of months or years that benefits will be paid out; the benefit rate, which is the amount payable to you based on a percentage of your income prior to disability (maximum limitations are set on all policy types); and the elimination period, which is the "waiting" period between the onset of the injury or illness and the moment when disability benefit payments begin. Most policies offer additional features or riders that can be added to your policy to extend or modify policy provisions. Examples of common riders are the Critical Illness Rider and the Waiver of Premium Rider.

Before obtaining disability insurance, find out if your current employer offers a group disability insurance policy. Employers partner with insurance companies to provide group policies to its employees for a fraction of what it would cost each person to purchase an individual policy. Group policy premiums are typically deducted from each paycheck. However, to keep costs down, group policies tend to lack many of the features individual policies enjoy. There are fewer choices for benefit amounts and benefit periods, and few, if any, riders are available. If your employer offers group disability insurance policies, speak with your HR department and examine the policy closely. If your employer does not offer group disability insurance, you can purchase an individual policy through an insurance company, an insurance broker, or a marketplace.

When comparing providers, consider the company's financial stability, which can help you assess how likely the company is to meet its future obligations, including the obligation to pay benefits to you. The company's reputation and the experience its customers have is also important. Most importantly, take stock of the different policies and coverage offered, as well as any available riders that may allow you to customize the policy to suit your needs. We highly recommend you consult with a financial advisor to carefully evaluate the exact income protection coverage you need. An insurance broker could also assist you in selecting the right insurance company for you, considering the wealth of options available.


Top 10 Companies

#1
7.8 / 10
  • Comprehensive group and individual short- and long-term disability insurance policies
  • Total and partial disability policies
  • A large selection of features and riders available on most plans
  • Accident-only disability and critical illness insurance also available

 

#2
7.7 / 10
  • Only offers disability income insurance or supplemental disability insurance
  • No medical examination or income documentation required for coverage
  • Guaranteed-renewable policies with level premiums
  • Premiums based on a percentage of the policyholder's manual duties
  • Standard policies at discounted, unisex rates
#3
7.7 / 10
  • Comprehensive short-term and long-term disability policies
  • Guaranteed renewable policies
  • Waiver of Premium after 90 days
  • Optional Critical Illness Rider pays up to $25,000 after diagnosis
  • Accident-only policies also available
  • Group and individual policies
#4
7.5 / 10
  • Leading provider of voluntary supplemental insurances in the US
  • Group short-term disability insurance
  • Guaranteed renewable up to age 75
  • No medical questions asked in some states
  • Individual accident, cancer, and critical illness insurance also available
#5
7.5 / 10
  • Replaces a percentage of the policyholder's base salary and bonus or incentive income
  • Protects from 40% to 60% of the base salary after taxes
  • Covers retirement contributions and student loan repayments
  • Tax-free benefits for those who pay their policy with after-tax dollars
  • Individual disability insurance coverage remains in place even after changing jobs
  • Supplemental disability income and disability insurance for business owners available
  • Flexible coverages can be customized through several benefit terms and optional riders
#6
7.3 / 10
  • Group short and long-term disability insurance policies
  • Customized plans with multiple elimination and benefit periods 
  • Total and partial disability coverage
  • Waiver of Premium Benefit 
  • Online claim filing
#7
7.2 / 10
  • Protects up to 60% of your income against illnesses and injuries
  • Policyholders get to keep their coverage even after changing jobs
  • Choose the maximum monthly benefit that meets your needs
  • Affordable premiums deducted directly from your payroll
  • Full disability coverage for pregnancies and mental illnesses
#8
7.2 / 10
  • Seventh-largest employee-benefit provider in the United States
  • Group and Individual short- and long-term disability insurance plans
  • Total and partial disability coverage
  • Multiple policy features and riders
#9
7.1 / 10
  • Excellent 9.8 out of 10 Trustpilot rating
  • Fast online application takes 5 minutes
  • Find quotes from top insurance companies
  • Multiple benefit options to fit your budget
  • Guaranteed Non-Cancelable, Own Occupation, and Residual Disability riders available
#10
7.1 / 10
  • Comprehensive group short-term and long-term disability
  • Protect 50% or 60% of your pre-disability income
  • Short-term maximum monthly benefit as high as $2,000 per week
  • LTD policy includes a waiver of premium, a survivor benefit, and a dependent benefit
  • No pre-existing condition exclusion for STD
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How We Compare Disability Insurance

Policies & Coverage

37%

Disability insurance is divided into two categories: short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD). Typically, short-term disability insurance pays out benefits for a few weeks or months. This type of insurance policy is most often used for temporary disabilities, such as bone fractures, sprains, simple surgeries, and pregnancies. On the other hand, policyholders receive long-term disability benefits for several years or even up to a certain age, like 65. Extended or permanent disabilities that prevent people from returning to their jobs will be covered by this type of insurance. Some examples are the loss of a limb, eyesight, or hearing, cancer and the long-term effects of its treatment, arthritis, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Short-term and long-term disability policies are usually sold separately, and policyholders who purchase both are often able to combine the benefits so that the long-term disability benefits are activated once the short-term benefit period runs out.

Some insurance companies sell accident-only insurance policies, which will only cover accidental injuries, not medical diseases. This type of insurance is popular with people who work in dangerous physical jobs but who feel they are not at risk for non-accidental diseases.

If the disability insurance policy contains a pre-existing condition exclusion, the policyholder will not be able to receive disability benefits if a certain condition causes a disability.

Disability insurance may be purchased by individuals from a private insurance company or through the workplace with a group policy. Group policies are acquired by the company the employee works for. The employee pays a portion of the premium (often through payroll deductions) and the employer pays the rest. Group policies can mean significant savings for the employee, but they are not as customizable as individual policies, under which the policyholder can select the benefit amounts and benefit period they wish, as well as a range of optional insurance riders.

Among the customizable features of a disability insurance policy are the elimination period, the maximum weekly or monthly benefit, and the benefit period.

The elimination period determines the amount of time the policyholder must wait between the day he or she becomes disabled and the day he or she is eligible to begin receiving benefits. This period can range from 30 to 720 days (just under three years). Shorter benefit periods will mean higher insurance premiums, while longer benefit periods will turn into lower premiums. Consumers must aim at striking a balance, since the longer you wait, the longer you will go without disability benefits. Take stock of your savings to see how long you can afford to go without receiving an income.

The maximum weekly or monthly benefit is the highest amount the insurance company will pay. Often, this maximum is is expressed in a percentage, between 50% and 80% of your weekly or monthly income, but some insurance companies state a maximum dollar amount that cannot be exceeded, regardless of the percentage. Weekly maximum is sometimes used for short-term disability policies, while monthly maximum is used for both short-term and long-term policies.

The benefit period is the maximum amount of time policyholders will receive benefits from the insurance company. For short-term disability insurance, this can range from three months to two years, while long-term disability benefits are usually paid out for up to 10 years or up to age 65 or 67, the usual retirement age. Shorter benefit periods will translate into lower insurance premiums. However, consider what your financial situation may be if your disability lasts for years or becomes permanent.

Below, we go over additional features that are often included in disability insurance policies at no additional cost.

Policy Features

Home or Worksite Modification Benefit: An amount of money is paid out to help you adapt the conditions of your home or workplace to your disability. This could include installing handles in the bathroom at home or at your workplace, installing ramps, etc.

Vocational Rehabilitation Benefit: An amount of money is paid to help you receive assistance in learning skills that will help you return to your old job or find a new occupation within the limitations of your condition.

Survivor Benefit: An amount of money is paid to your beneficiaries if you die while receiving disability benefits.

Presumptive Total Disability: Under this feature, the insurance company will start paying benefits on day one if your disability is total; that is, if you lose your eyesight, hearing, speech, or the use of two limbs (both hands, both feet, or a hand and a foot). Some policies may also require that the loss be permanent and irrevocable to waive the elimination period.

Total Disability Income Benefit:

Partial Disability: This feature allows you to qualify for benefits if you are partially disabled or unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your regular occupation and are not working in any occupation.

Non-Cancelable: This feature means your insurance premiums cannot be increased, either for the duration of the policy or for a certain amount of years. It also means your policy cannot be canceled while you pay your premiums.

Guaranteed Renewable: Under this feature, the insurance company cannot change or cancel your insurance policy if you continue to pay your premiums. The key difference between a non-cancelable policy and a guaranteed renewable policy is that the latter have exceptions through which the insurance company can increase your premiums. When policies have both features (a non-cancelable guaranteed renewable policy), every element of the policy is locked in.

Level Premiums: This feature means you will always pay the same premium amount, sometimes up to a certain age, like 65.


Flexibility

18%

In addition to the features that are built into short-term and long-term disability policies, many insurance companies also offer a series of optional riders that add benefits or modify key parts of the base policy. Knowing what each rider does is a key part of customizing your policy so it fits your needs. Keep in mind that many policy riders are not available under group policies, which is one of the reasons they tend to be less expensive than individual policies. Here is a list of the most commonly found disability insurance policy riders:

Available Policy Riders

Own Occupation: Many policies define disability as the inability to perform any occupation, which can make it harder to qualify for disability benefits if you are unable to do your usual job but may be able to do other things. An own occupation rider changes the definition of disability to mean the inability to perform the job you were regularly doing before becoming disabled. Under this rider, even if you could work in another job, you would qualify for disability.

Automatic Benefit Increase: This rider automatically increases the maximum benefit by a certain percentage every year. Often, this is done without requiring you to undergo the process of medical underwriting. That means the insurance company cannot deny a coverage increase because of a new medical condition.

Future Benefit Increase: This rider protects future earnings by allowing policyholders to increase their monthly benefit according to their income, regardless of health changes.

Cost of Living Adjustment: Also known as COLA, this rider can help offset the risk of inflation by increasing benefits annually. It typically kicks in 12 months after the policyholder becomes disabled.

Guaranteed Insurability: This rider allows the policyholder to increase their maximum benefit every year without medical underwriting. A guaranteed insurability rider is a good idea if you foresee an increase in your income in the future.

Waiver of Premium: With this rider, you are not required to pay premiums for your disability insurance if the disability lasts an extended amount of time, usually six months. Once the disability is over, the premium payments start again. This feature is sometimes built into the core policy.

Return of Premium: With this rider, if you outlive the term of the policy (usually age 65 or 67), if you die, or if you cancel or let lapse your policy, you can get back a portion of the premiums you paid, minus any benefits that may have been paid out to you.

Critical Illness: Under this rider, the insurance company will pay out an amount of money if you are diagnosed with a covered illness for the first time or if you have a covered medical procedure. The list of illnesses and procedures varies from company to company, but it usually covers cancer, heart attacks and certain cardiovascular surgeries, and organ transplants, among others.

Hospital Confinement Indemnity: This rider will reimburse a portion of the cost of a hospital stay caused by a covered injury or accident.

Accidental Medical Expense: This rider will reimburse a portion of the medical expenses you had to cover for an accidental injury.

Supplemental Disability Income: With this rider, an additional benefit will be paid to if you applied for disability benefits through Social Security, Workers' Compensation, or another social insurance program, and were denied. If you receive social insurance benefits, the supplemental disability income benefit is duly reduced.

Retroactive Injury: This rider pays out an amount of money if you become disabled 30 days or less after you suffer an injury. That means the injury is retroactively covered by the insurance, even if it didn't immediately cause a disability.

Catastrophic Disability: This rider pays out an additional sum if your disability is catastrophic. This definition varies from company to company but usually means that you can no longer perform some Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

Residual Disability Benefit: If your disability prohibits you from working full-time but lets you work part-time, you may receive a portion of the benefits. Some policies also require that you must have been fully disabled before becoming partially disabled to receive residual benefits.


Financial Strength

25%

An insurance company's financial strength is a crucial factor that must be taken into consideration when evaluating and comparing companies. A disability insurance policy can last several years, sometimes several decades, in the case of long-term disability. You want to make sure the company will be able to pay your benefits for the foreseeable future.

One way of determining a company's financial strength is through the score it is given by credit rating companies, such as A.M. Best, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's. These companies take a close look at a company's finances, its creditworthiness, and its obligations to determine how likely it is to be able to pay its policyholders.

While it is important to determine whether a company is financially strong when purchasing a policy, it is equally important to keep tabs on the company's finances throughout the life of the policy, since the company's situation may change.

Market Share 2017

This number reflects the company’s share of total premiums collected nationwide by all insurance companies in the market, as determined by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s Closed Consumer Complaints Reports for 2017.

Total Premiums 2017

This amount reflects the total amount of insurance premiums collected by the company in the United States for 2017, as determined by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s Closed Consumer Complaints Reports for 2017.

Company Type

We have classified disability insurance companies into three categories:

Underwriter: A company that underwrites its own insurance policies.

Subsidiary or Partner: A company that sells insurance policies underwritten by an insurance company that may be its owner or its partner.

Marketplace: A company that provides consumers quotes from several insurance companies.


Reputation & Customer Experience

18%

Another important element when rating disability insurance companies is its reputation and the experience its customers have had. Though it is a highly subjective area of evaluation, it is nevertheless useful to know which issues other customers have had to know whether to stay away from particular companies or to avoid common pitfalls. 

To determine a company’s reputation and customer experience, we have taken a look at customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot, as well as the company’s complaint ratio and the total number of complaints, as determined by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)’s Closed Consumer Complaints Reports for 2017.

NAIC Total Complaints 2017

The NAIC’s Closed Consumer Complaints Report also includes the total number of complaints filed that were resolved in the complainant’s favor during the business year.

NAIC Complaint Ratio 2017

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) prepares a report every year outlining closed consumer complaints. The complaint ratio measures the company’s share of total consumer complaints in the industry. The national complaint median ratio is 1.00, which means a company with a ratio under 1.00 has a lower number of complaints than average, while a company with a ratio over 1.00 has a higher number than average.

BBB Rating

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) assigns a company a letter rating depending on its performance in several areas. Among these evaluation aspects are the number of complaints consumers file with the organization, government actions taken against the company, and transparent business practices, among others. The BBB reports on said government actions, bankruptcies, and advertising issues. The BBB also grants accreditation to some companies based, in part, on its commitment to responding to consumer complaints.

Trustpilot Rating

Trustpilot.com is an independent online consumer review website, where customers can leave positive and negative comments on the company’s performance. It assigns a score on a scale of one to ten based on the reviews and ratings, which can give an idea of overall customer satisfaction.


What's important to know about Disability Insurance?


Why should I get disability insurance?

Disability insurance is designed to pay for a portion of a person's income in the event they are unable to work for a period of time due to illness or injury. There are two main types of disability insurance, long-term and short-term. Short-term disability (STD) insurance can replace 60–70% of the policyholder's base salary over a few months or up to two years, while long-term disability (LTD) insurance can replace up to 60% of their base salary over several years. Although there are further differences between the two, both types of coverages serve as a financial backup for those who cannot afford to go without income for months or perhaps years due to medical reasons like a sudden illness, pregnancy, or a work-related injury. Disability insurance is for anyone who wants to protect their income, regardless of whether they have a high-risk job or a desk job. To determine whether disability insurance is right for you, take into consideration such factors as your monthly financial responsibilities and the number of people who depend on you for sustenance. If you have a large family that depends on you or don't have sufficient savings to hold you over in the event you are unable to return to work for some time, a disability coverage may be a wise investment.

What's the difference between short and long-term disability insurance?

The main difference between the two policies is the length of the benefit period. With short-term disability insurance, you typically receive 3 to 6 months or up to two years of coverage, if needed. Long-term benefit periods are 5 or 10 years, or up to retirement age (65 or 67). Both plans cost about the same (1–3% of your income) and pay a percentage of your income, usually 60%, when you become disabled and cannot work full time.

How do I qualify for disability insurance?

The process of getting and qualifying for disability insurance is similar to the process with other insurance plans: you select a reputable company, apply for a policy, then find out what your coverage and premium will be. Disability insurance companies use a specific set of criteria for qualification as well as setting policy premiums. Criteria can include age, occupation, gender, tobacco use, and pre-existing conditions. Some companies will also require you to undergo medical underwriting, which is the process of evaluating your health to see if there are any risks that may affect your eligibility or the cost of your premiums. Companies also require income statements (months or years) for proof of income and occupation. If the eligibility criteria list is not available on an insurance company's website, ask the representative for those details. It will save you time during your insurance company selection process.

At what age can I qualify for disability insurance?

Generally, you qualify for purchasing private disability insurance as soon as you turn 18, and this eligibility period extends to age 65 or 67, depending on the stipulations of your particular disability insurance policy. Once you age out of the policy, you will no longer be eligible to receive disability benefits from your policy, even if you continue working.

Is disability insurance taxable?

The tax consequences of disability insurance benefits depend on the type of policy. The benefits you get from an individual policy—one that you purchase privately and on your own—are usually tax-free because you are paying the premiums with money you already pay taxes on. On the other hand, if you have a group policy—one that you obtain through your workplace, the benefits you receive are taxable most of the time. This is because the insurance premiums are deducted from your paycheck before taxes are taken out. However, if the premiums are deducted from your after-tax money, the benefits are tax-free.

How much disability coverage do I need?

To decide how much disability coverage you should purchase, you need to calculate how much money you will need to cover your living expenses if you suddenly stop working. Take stock of your monthly expenses and find places where you could cut back if you couldn’t work anymore. Consider also that you may receive income from other sources, like Social Security or investment earnings. Once you have an idea of how much you will need every month, take a look at the disability insurance policies available to you. Most policies will only provide a percentage of your pre-disability income, usually 60%, but you may be able to select a higher or a lower percentage. Keep in mind that a higher benefit rate will cost you more. Also consider the elimination period and benefit period as well, so you can better plan for the future. A shorter elimination period is more expensive, but it means you will have to wait less time between the disability and the moment you start receiving benefits. A longer benefit period, on the other hand, will be useful if you suffer a long-term disability that could keep you out of the workplace for months or years, if not for the rest of your life.

When do my benefits begin?

As long as your claim is approved, your benefits will begin at the end of your policy's elimination period, which starts on the day of the injury or illness that causes you to be disabled. You set the elimination period when you purchase your policy. Think of it as a deductible: the longer the period, the lower your premium. Typically, a 90-day elimination period is recommended to get a lower rate while still meeting your disability income needs. Depending on riders you may purchase with your policy, you could be reimbursed for premiums made during your policy's elimination period.

What is an insurance rider?

An insurance rider is an optional provision that is not included in the base insurance policy. Policyholders can add riders that expand or replace the terms of the policy. The riders are used to customize the plan to fit individual policyholders’ needs. An example of a rider in a disability insurance policy is a Critical Illness Rider. With this rider, the insurance company will pay out a benefit if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, like cancer. This benefit is separate from the disability benefits you will receive if the illness keeps you from working. Riders can be included in a policy for an additional cost, which can be moderate or steep, depending on the rider. Removing a rider from a policy may also have an additional charge.

What is "own" vs. "any" occupation?

Disability insurance policies have varying definitions of disability. Some define it as the inability to perform the tasks of your own occupation, which is the job you were doing immediately before becoming disabled. Other companies define disability as the inability to perform the tasks of any occupation, which include any job you are capable of doing, even outside of your industry. An “own occupation” policy is easier to qualify for because it only asks whether you can do your current job or not. “Any occupation” policies make it more difficult to receive benefits because you have to prove that you can’t do any job, which usually requires that your disability be greater.