Cancer and Back Disorders Top Long-Term Disability Claims

By Stephen Miller, CEBS May 6, 2013

For the 12th year, cancer was the top reason for long-term disability claims, followed closely by back disorders, according to 2012 claims data from insurance provider Unum.

The leading reasons for Unum’s short-term disability claims were maternity and nonback injuries.

Recovery and return to work play a particularly significant role for cancer patients. “Most people who have been diagnosed with cancer are very motivated to get back to work,” said Kristin Tugman, senior director of Health and Productivity at Unum. “It helps create a sense of normalcy and control at a time when people often feel understandably overwhelmed.”

Advances in cancer treatment have led to much higher rates of survival from diagnosis. The American Cancer Society estimates that the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. will grow to nearly 18 million by 2022.

Altogether, the leading causes of long-term disability claims reported by Unum were:

  • Cancer (15.9 percent of claims)
  • Back disorders excluding injury (15.1).
  • Injuries (9.8 percent).
  • Behavioral-health issues (9.8 percent).
  • Circulatory system disorders (9.0 percent).
  • Joint disorders (8.3 percent).

Leading causes of short-term disability claims were:

  • Normal pregnancy (18.9 percent).
  • Injuries (10.5 percent).
  • Complications from pregnancy (8.4 percent).
  • Digestive disorders (8 percent).
  • Back disorders (7.1 percent).
  • Cancer (6.8 percent).

Return-to-Work Accommodations

As employees on disability leave make the transition back to work, accommodations Unum recommends include:

Clearly defining work expectations and limitations.

Creating a flexible or reduced work schedule.

Modifying workstations to avoid having to stand or sit for too long.

Allowing extra time for breaks, to combat fatigue.

Coaching and providing feedback on performance.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related External Resource:

Moving Beyond: Cancer Survivors at Work, Unum

Related SHRM Articles:

Return-to-Work Programs, Flexibility Retain Employees with Disabilities, SHRM Online Disability, June 2012

Short-Term Disability: Plan Design Affects Behavior, Outcomes, SHRM Online Benefits, July 2009

Return-to-Work Programs: A Foundation for Successful Workforce, SHRM Online Benefits, February 2009

Return-to-Work/Stay-at-Work Programs: Reduce Lost Time, Boost Productivity, SHRM Online Benefits, March 2008

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits Topics & Strategy

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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