Disability insurance, — now carried by more than 50 million Americans — generally promises to replace at least half of a person's wages in case of illness or injury. However, in a substantial number of cases, especially those involving workers with long-term or permanent disabilities, it doesn't deliver.
The chief reason — and one that affects not only disability but also the whole universe of employer-provided benefits — is a series of court decisions dealing with the federal benefits law known as ERISA. The decisions have prevented states from extending almost any form of consumer protection to these benefits, and have severely limited individuals' ability to successfully sue their insurers.
'People who file disability claims today are worse off than they were two or three decades ago,' said Judge William M. Acker Jr., who was appointed to the U.S. District Court in Alabama by President Reagan. 'The law that was supposed to protect them has been turned on its head; the chief beneficiaries are now the insurance companies,' said Acker, who has presided over a variety of disability insurance cases and has written extensively on the subject.
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