Baby Boomers Still Misunderstand Disability Income

According to a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of America's Health Insurance Plans, most baby boomers overestimate the breadth and depth of the public safety net available for workers who suffer a disability, believing public programs provide disability benefits to more people than they actually do and overestimating the amount of benefits available.

The survey assessed boomers' knowledge about public disability income programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Worker's Compensation. Nearly half of boomers surveyed believe incorrectly that a working adult would qualify for SSDI benefits if he or she were unable to work at their current job, but could still work at another job that pays less money. More than a third of baby boomers believe a worker is qualified if he or she can work no more than twenty hours a week, and one in four say they do not know what the qualifications are. In reality, workers are eligible for SSDI benefits only if they are unable to do any work for which they would earn $1,000 or more per month.

"Baby boomers believe they have more disability income protection than they actually do, giving them a false sense of security against the financial risks of disability," AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni. Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, seconded that thought, saying, "Baby boomers know very little about the public disability safety net available for workers who suffer a disability."

Only one in five boomers correctly estimated the average monthly SSDI benefit for a disabled worker to be about $1,000 a month. Eighteen percent overestimated the benefit and a significant number of those surveyed (43 percent) said they did not know how much the average monthly SSDI benefit was. While a majority of boomers (60 percent) accurately stated that job-related illnesses and injuries are qualifications for worker's compensation, many incorrectly believe this coverage is also available to individuals who suffer a disability in other situations. Many of those surveyed said they believe people can qualify for worker's comp benefits if they suffer a disability that prevents them from working at their previous job (26 percent), forces them to work at a job that pays less than their current job (10 percent), or if they can only work part-time (9 percent).

Thirty-six percent of boomers did not know how much of their current income worker's comp benefits would replace, and one in five overestimated benefits. Only 24 percent of boomers accurately stated that worker's compensation replaces two-thirds of a worker's pre-disability income.

The survey also assessed baby boomers knowledge of the length of time it takes to receive SSDI benefits. Thirty-four percent estimated that the length of time to receive benefits was shorter than it generally is, and more than a third (35 percent) said they didn't know how long the process takes. The average length of time it takes for a person who files a SSDI claim to be accepted or denied, including any appeals, is approximately 500 days, or more than 17 months. A memo outlining the survey findings is available at www.ahip.org/content/default.aspx?docid=23188, and the survey questionnaire can be found at www.ahip.org/content/default.aspx?docid=23187.

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