May 2019 Disability Awareness

Stressing Certainty in an Uncertain Time

Disability: It isn’t just a policy, it’s a promise

by Jim McGovern

Mr. McGovern is senior vice president, employee benefits, with OneAmerica. Visit

Disability insurance goes to the very heart of securing the financial future for so many working Americans, at all income levels. Employers who are in the know count on what we do for paycheck protection ─ to ensure their employees can help maintain their standard of living and that of their families in the event of an illness or injury.

May, which is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, is one of the times of the year that carriers can remind the public how truly valuable that employer-sponsored disability insurance is, as an income protector.

This month is also an opportune time for leaders to review and refresh best practices to fully harness the talents, skills and capabilities of their front-line claims personnel. Some of these best practices relate to values, specifically the value of employing a compassionate and creative approach to best help disabled employees get back to work or move to the next place in their life. As a leader oinemployee benefits, we know from experience that doing right by the customer centers on having the right people in the right roles, empowered to administer policies and make a difference by bringing certainty to claimants in a time of great uncertainty.

People don’t just buy a policy, after all. People are purchasing a promise. And the best way for insurance professionals to fulfill that promise is to meet the claimant where they are, set clear expectations and advocate, then work together to achieve the best outcomes for all parties involved.

These are five helpful observations to aid in development of certainty-creating best practices:

Certainty starts with listening
It takes special people to work with disability claimants, each possessing and using a variety of tools throughout the claim lifecycle. When people file a disability claim, they’re scared. They might be in an emotional state when they call. That’s why every one of your hires should go through hours of empathy and compassion training (as ours do). One claims operations professional where I work tells me that, “Listening can make or break where a claim goes. We ask claimants to tell us what’s going on in their own words. We also listen for other subtle cues. Sometimes what people aren’t saying is just as important as what they do say.” For example, the sound of children in the background might trigger a query about childcare needs and Employee Assistance Program benefits. Listening for cues beyond the injury or illness can allow the claims professional to detect and suggest a tailored claims management approach.

Certainty comes from connection
We can all measure our claims capabilities in terms of speed to pick up the phone or the number of claims professionals in the seats. But isn’t it the connection they make with claimants, to know them and find unique ways to help them return to work, that makes the difference? You can have two people with the same disabling condition but their personal situation or course of treatment could be totally unique. A great connection produces inspired interactions and has transcended a mere data-based relationship by the time that outcomes have been determined.

Listening can make or break where a claim goes. We ask claimants to tell us what's going on in their own words. We also listen for other subtle cues...

Certainty comes from education
Regardless of the clients’ circumstances, there are no shortcuts to providing exceptional service-oriented education, helping the claimant understand the claims process and gain transparency into both the ‘what will happen’ and the ‘why it will happen’. It takes time, whether it’s that extra step in reviewing records or just a two-way conversation. It leads to trust. Where I work, we don’t follow a strict script when it comes to talking with our claimants.

When you care, listen, and claimants understand the “why”, you provide certainty, whether the claims determination is an approval or denial. If they receive an approval, that’s great, you can help manage their claim. If the news is not so good, they’ll understand why (because of a provision in the policy or another explanation). Do that, and you might never have to process a claim where a person feels upset because they didn’t understand why your company did what it did. They get it.

Certainty comes from commitment
One surprising aspect of claims management is the degree of teamwork involved. It really takes focus and commitment from a team of professionals: medical experts; intake specialists; benefit assistants; claims examiners; vocational consultants; and Social Security advocates … even employers and brokers play a part in ensuring the best claims outcomes. All have a unique role in the claims process; however, acting together as a unified front. Mother Teresa speaks to this topic: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Teamwork and commitment to providing the best possible outcomes for our claimants is vital to our success and an essential part of the claimants’ journey.

Certainty makes for good business
It’s important to note that we do the right thing for our claimant, it’s the right thing for the company. It means if we help a claimant returns to work the employer gets a valued employee back on the job. If a claimant is permanently disabled, we help them exit gracefully and the employer gets to refill a role. And last but certainly not least, if we create certainty for the claimant and employer throughout the claims journey, the broker will trust us to service future business with them.

Overall, providing certainty in an uncertain time is a great thing to strive for.



OneAmerica® is the marketing name for the companies of OneAmerica.
Products issued and underwritten by American United Life Insurance Company® (AUL), Indianapolis, IN, a OneAmerica company.
Jim McGovern has led the employee benefits division of OneAmerica since April 2012. McGovern is a graduate of the University of Indianapolis and has held previous positions in the industry at Cigna and Unum.
OneAmerica focuses on the core financial wellness products of group life and disability insurance. OneAmerica has recorded double-digit sales growth in Employee Benefits for five consecutive years.