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Experts Share Disability Income Protection Best Practices

posted by Winthrop Cashdollar

on August 7, 2017

As moderator of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) National Disability Forum, I had a front row seat to the opportunities and challenges private industry and the federal government face in serving individuals with disabilities.

Private disability income protection coverage differs from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) coverage  in some ways significantly  from the covered populations to the definitions and processes. However, it is not at all unlikely that best practices in private disability income protection coverage could be adapted and adopted to help the SSDI program serve applicants and beneficiaries better.

To this end, the SSA hosted, and private disability income protection industry experts joined, a forum to discuss best practices in disability income protection coverage.

Gather information to conduct functional assessments for individuals with disabilities

“We find the claimants themselves can be invaluable sources of information and can oftentimes help expedite getting information. Social media in the past 10 years has exploded and it’s amazing what you can learn about people.”

– Catherine Liston, Vice President Group and Voluntary Claims, Sun Life Financial Services

“I think our industry has work to do in terms of really partnering with physicians to help them understand what their role is in the disability world including …helping us understand what the person can do and can’t do –  not evaluating whether or not the person is disabled. That’s really our job.” 

Kristin Tugman, Vice President, Health & Productivity Analytics and Consulting Practice, Prudential

Develop a communication strategy and process when implementing a new policy or technology

We have minor policy tweaks that happen on a frequent basis, however for major legislative changes we would conduct a formal training and insure that everybody who touches the claims at any stage in the process would be informed about the new requirements. And there is quite often classroom training, but because of the decentralized nature of how we operate, we will frequently conduct virtual training through various virtual training methodologies.”

– Margarita Devlin, Executive Director, Benefits Assistance Service, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Use video technology, decision support tools, and data analytics to more effectively assess the individual

“As I think about the 11 million Social Security claims, I think predictive models …are helping the private sector to identify those 11 million. Where are the 5 percent that might have interest or potential or capacity to return to work? It’s helping to data mine and find those claims where you might have the possibility to intervene and help someone get back to work.”

– Catherine Liston

Identify a clear path for individuals with disabilities to return to work

“I think that, however Social Security operates, the most important thing is that we treat people with respect and dignity and that we make accurate and timely decisions. Everything else comes after that.”

– Stacy Braverman Cloyd, Deputy Director of Government Affairs, National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives

I ask folks to think about: what’s the barrier to return to work? Is it that I’m afraid that I won’t be successful? And then we can move into a transitional return to work or a long-term rehab plan, because we understand what motivates the person. We can address those anxieties and help that person actually feel prepared for return to work and get them to a place where they feel like the consequence of staying out of work is greater than the consequence of returning to work.”

– Kristin Tugman

My key takeaways, among other things, are: the importance of timely intervention, avoiding the “disability mindset”, and accounting for individual motivation and psychological factors that could impact an individual’s successful return to work.

Winthrop Cashdollar is executive director of Product Policy at AHIP.