Protecting your income with disability insurance

May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, an occasion to raise awareness about this underutilized financial product, which is designed to safeguard your income in case you get sick or injured and are unable to work.

Disability insurance, also known as disability income insurance, complements health insurance and is meant to replace lost income and help protect you and your family from an otherwise financially catastrophic illness or injury.

Depending on where you have been employed, whether you’ve served in the military, and the reason you’re unable to work, there are a number of potential sources of disability income.

Employer-paid disability insurance is required in most states, and so is the most common. Most employers provide some short-term sick leave. Many larger employers provide short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) coverage as well, typically with benefits of up to 60 percent of salary lasting from five years to age 65. In some cases, LTD insurance is extended for life. Disability benefits from employer-paid policies are subject to income tax.

When you buy a private disability income policy, you can expect to replace from 50 percent to 70 percent of income. When you pay the premiums yourself, disability benefits are not taxed.

Social Security disability benefits may be paid to workers whose disability is expected to last at least 12 months and is so severe that no gainful employment can be performed.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide some replacement income for veterans, depending on the nature and circumstances of the disability.

Auto insurance may cover some income loss under the personal injury protection (PIP) portion of the policy if the disability results from an auto accident. As always, this depends on the policy, the insurer, and the circumstances.

Disability insurance provides vital protection for most workers against events that are hard to contemplate. Securing this protection in the event of a serious illness or injury is just as important as insuring your home or car.

Click here to learn more about the types of disability coverage available.