The 5D’s: Disability

Consider what might happen if you suffered an injury or illness and couldn’t work for days, months, or even years. If you’re single, do you have other means of support? If you’re married, you may be able to rely on your spouse for income, but you probably also have many financial obligations, such as supporting your children and paying your mortgage. Could your spouse’s income support your whole family? In addition, remember that you don’t have to be working in a hazardous position to need disability insurance. Accidents happen not only on the job but also at home, and illness can strike anyone.

“Life is really random,” Mr. Harrington-Howes tells the Wall Street Journal. “You don’t have to be a risk-taker. I was at the beach playing in the waves.”

Obie Harrington-Howes

On July 4, 1997 Obie Harrington-Howes was paralyzed in a swimming accident at Jones Beach, New York. Obie’s spinal cord injury prompted an immediate outpouring of concern from many of his friends who had come to know him through his involvement in philanthropic and town athletic organizations. In response to
the multitude of people who expressed their desire to help, the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation, a tax-exempt public charity, was formed in 1998.

“Someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury faces enormous physical, emotional and financial obstacles. In the years following my injury, the support of the OHHF made all the difference by providing financial assistance to my family and me. Because of our donors’ continued generosity, the Foundation has become a widely recognized source of similar assistance to many others in the region living with spinal cord injuries,” says Mr. Harrington-Howes.

While the Foundation helped to cover expenses resulting from Obie’s injury, which weren’t covered by his health insurance, his Disability Insurance was crucial in providing ongoing income to support his family.  Without it, they would have had no income.

Once you become disabled and apply for benefits, you have to wait for a certain amount of time after the onset of your disability before you receive benefits. If you are applying for benefits under a private insurance policy, this amount of time (known as the elimination period) ranges from 30 to 365 days, although the most common period is 90 days. Group insurance policies through your employer will generally have a waiting period of no more than 8 days for short-term policies that pay benefits for up to six months, and 90 days for long-term policies that pay benefits up to age 65.

Planning For Incapacity

At some point in your life, perhaps as a result of illness, accident, or advanced age, you may lack the mental capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions about your own health care. Without directions to the contrary, medical professionals are generally compelled to make every effort to save and maintain your life. Depending on your attitude toward various medical treatments and your views on the quality of life, you may want to take steps now to control your future health-care decisions. You can do so by adopting one or more advanced directives for health care. If you do not adopt such a directive for health care, a family member may have to petition the court for the authority to make those decisions for you.There are three types of advanced directives for health care. Each serves a different function, as described briefly below. Be aware that not all are allowed in every state. Check with your state to find out which one(s) you can consider.

  •  Living will: A living will lets you decline certain types of medical care, even if you will die as a result. Generally, a living will can be used only to decline medical treatment that “serves only to postpone the moment of death.”
  •  Durable power of attorney for health care, or health-care proxy: A durable power of attorney for health care, or health-care proxy, lets you appoint a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf. It becomes effective only when you’ve become incapacitated. You decide how much power your representative will have.
  •  Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR): A DNR is your doctor’s order that tells all other medical personnel not to perform CPR if you go into cardiac arrest. There are two types of DNRs. One is used while you are hospitalized. The other is used while you are outside the hospital.
To learn more about the Obie Harrinton-Howes Foundation, visit


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