Insurers Use High-Pressure “Return to Work” Programs to
Terminate Disability Insurance Benefits

A personal return to work plan can be useful and empowering when it is the product of careful consideration between a disability insurance claimant, his doctor, and his attorney.

In the hands of a disability insurer, however, a return to work strategy is simply a means of beefing up the bottom line by pushing a claimant to give up his benefits and return to work before it’s safe.

To compound the problem, insurers increasingly market their return-to-work pressure methods to employers who seek to minimize disability-related absenteeism, dubbing the relationship a “strategic partnership.”  Prudential, a major provider of disability insurance policies, offered its approach at the annual Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Conference in San Diego.  In describing its methods, Prudential argued that “[s]ome disability absences are driven by subjective feelings about work,” a problem best solved by “an environment that breeds commitment.”  Unum, one of the nation’s largest disability insurance providers, has given similar presentations, including one on strategies for managing employees’ chronic pain conditions—callously titled “A Pain in the Workplace.”

The unfortunate outcome is that the claimant faces pressure from both her employer and her insurer to return to work prematurely, often on a “trial” basis—a decision that can lead to forfeiture of benefits, aggravation of medical problems, and other complications.

Consult your doctor and a reliable, knowledgeable attorney before you consider returning to work, even for a “trial” period.  The effect on your benefits and health could be profound.