Many of us rely on a job for our income. If that includes you, and if you find yourself unable to continue performing your job duties because of a physical ailment, disability insurance can be a godsend. It replaces a portion of the income you lose when you can’t work.
Disability insurance comes in two distinct flavors: own-occupation (also called own-occ) and any-occupation (or any-occ) disability insurance policies. Although they may sound similar, there are some key differences in how much coverage each type of policy offers.
What Is Disability Insurance?
Let’s start with a review of what disability insurance is and how it works.
Disability insurance is an insurance product that protects workers against income loss due to a disability. In other words, if a disability or illness keeps you from being able to do your job, disability insurance can provide you with a source of income. But typically, the payments don’t replace the full amount of your lost wages.
Disability insurance usually has an expiration date. Short-term disability insurance pays a portion of your lost wages — typically between 50% to 70% — for three to six months. Long-term disability insurance can pay around 60% to 80% of your lost wages for two years or until your retirement, based on your specific policy. (The duration may be reflected in the premium amount.)
There’s also public disability insurance through the Social Security program: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is free and can pay for as long as you are disabled or until you reach retirement age. Those payments are calculated based on your average indexed monthly earnings, which means they might be higher than the 60% to 80% range offered by private insurers. However, SSDI can be difficult to qualify for and the process can be lengthy. Even if you are approved, you must wait five months after approval to receive your first payment.
Recommended: Short Term vs. Long Term Disability Insurance
Own-Occupation vs. Any-Occupation Disability Insurance
When purchasing private disability insurance, you may have the option to choose either an own-occupation policy or any-occupation policy. (Note that your employer may only offer only any-occupation policy, so be sure you read your paperwork carefully to understand what you’re getting.)
Own-occupation is a more robust disability insurance product. It protects you in the event you become disabled and can’t work at your job. Typically, it’s more expensive than any-occupation disability insurance.
Any-occupation disability insurance protects you in the event you become disabled and can’t work at any job you’re reasonably qualified for.
Let’s dive deeper into the differences between these two products.
Own-Occupation Disability Insurance
Own-occupation disability insurance insures you against any disability that keeps you from performing your regular job. In many cases, you’re still eligible to receive benefits even if you find another job.
There may be language in the contract stating that you have to have been working at the moment you became disabled in order to be covered. But there are also policies that cover people who become disabled outside work if their disabilities prevent them from performing their job duties.
Highly skilled surgeons, for example, frequently get own-occupation insurance, since their jobs require such finely tuned motor skills. For instance, if Grey’s Anatomy heart surgeon extraordinaire Dr. Preston Burke, who suffered from hand tremors after surviving a gunshot injury, had had own-occupation insurance coverage, he could have chosen to move into a different role in the hospital and still received benefits for losing his ability to perform his original job. He could also have chosen not to work at all and still have received benefits.
Any-Occupation Disability Insurance
Any-occupation disability insurance works a bit differently. This type of policy insures you against any disability that keeps you from performing any job you’re reasonably qualified for.
“Reasonably qualified” is determined by the insurance company and is based on factors like your age, education, and experience level. If you’re still considered “capable” of working with the disability — even if it’s at a lower-paying job — you would likely not receive any disability benefits at all.
This means that any-occupation insurance is a much less flexible and reliable form of disability insurance coverage. However, it’s often the only option available through an employer. Be sure to read your benefits package carefully, since you might want to purchase additional coverage to ensure that you’ll receive benefits if you do find yourself unable to do your work.
Let’s go back to the Dr. Burke example to see how the difference between these two insurance coverage options plays out. Because Dr. Burke was still a talented doctor who could perform other medical services and assessments, any-occupation disability insurance wouldn’t have covered him at all after he sustained his gunshot wound. Although he was unable to perform delicate heart surgeries, he could have taken another job in the hospital or even a job outside the medical field entirely. Thus, his any-occupation disability insurance wouldn’t have kicked in unless he sustained a more incapacitating injury that rendered him unable to work at all.
Disability insurance helps you replace part of your lost income if you become unable to perform your job duties due to an illness or injury. But when you’re covered depends in large part on whether you have own-occupation or all-occupation insurance.
Own-occupation disability insurance coverage kicks in if your disability prevents you from performing the specific occupation you hold. Any-occupation disability insurance coverage kicks in only if you can’t perform any job you’re reasonably qualified for.
That’s why it’s key to know what kind of policy you have and whether you have the right coverage in place.
Disability coverage can offer one level of protection; life insurance can provide another. If you’re thinking about getting life insurance, SoFi has teamed up with Ladder to offer competitive policies that are quick to set up and easy to understand. You can apply in just minutes and get an instant decision. As your circumstances change, you can easily change or cancel your policy with no fees and no hassles.
Coverage and pricing is subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria.
Ladder Insurance Services, LLC (CA license # OK22568; AR license # 3000140372) distributes term life insurance products issued by multiple insurers- for further details see ladderlife.com. All insurance products are governed by the terms set forth in the applicable insurance policy. Each insurer has financial responsibility for its own products.
Ladder, SoFi and SoFi Agency are separate, independent entities and are not responsible for the financial condition, business, or legal obligations of the other, Social Finance. Inc. (SoFi) and Social Finance Life Insurance Agency, LLC (SoFi Agency) do not issue, underwrite insurance or pay claims under Ladder Life™ policies. SoFi is compensated by Ladder for each issued term life policy.
SoFi Agency and its affiliates do not guarantee the services of any insurance company.
All services from Ladder Insurance Services, LLC are their own. Once you reach Ladder, SoFi is not involved and has no control over the products or services involved. The Ladder service is limited to documents and does not provide legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique and using documents provided is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.