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Almost two-thirds of wage earners believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working career, but the actual odds for a worker entering the workforce today are about 25%.


Social Security Admin, Fact Sheet 2/7/2013
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The Common Causes of a Disability


The most common cause of a prolonged disability is NOT an injury or work or a freak accident. In fact less than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work related. The other 95% are not, meaning Workers Compensation doesn’t cover them. According to CDA’s 2013 Long-Term Disability Claims Review, the following were the leading cause of new disability claims in 2012:

  • Musculoskeletal/connective tissue disorders (28.5%) *
  • Cancer (14.6%)
  • Injuries and poisoning (10.6%)
  • Mental disorders (8.9%)
  • Cardiovascular/circulatory disorders (8.2%)

Here is a chart of claim diagnosis categories to provide clear examples of common causes of disability.

* This category includes claims caused by neck and back pain; joint, muscle and tendon disorders; foot, ankle and hand disorders, etc.
Source: Council for Disability Awareness, Long-Term Disability Claims Review, 2012


Claim Diagnosis Category

Lay Language


Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue

Muscle. Back, and Joint Disorders

Arthritis, Herniated and Degenerated Disc, Back Pain, Spine/Joint Disorders, Cartilage Sprain, Tendonitis, Fibromyitis, Osteoporosis, Rheumatism, Scoliosis, Sciatica.

Disease of the Nervous System and Sense Organs

Spine and Nervous System-Related Disorder

Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Paralysis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Bell Palsy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Eye Disorders including Diabetic Retinopathy and Macular degeneration, Ear Disorders like Meniere’s Disease.

Disease of the Circulatory System

Cardiovascular and Circulatory Diseases

Hypertension, Heart Disease, Heart Attack, Stroke, Aneurysm, Coronary Artery Disease, Phlebitis

Cancer and Neoplasms

Cancer and Tumors

Breast Cancer, Prostrate Cancer, Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, Leukemia, Tumors

Injuries and Poisoning

Accidents, Injuries and Poisonings

Fractures, Sprains and Strains, Dislocations, Contusions, Burns, Poisoning, Allergic Reactions

Mental Disorders

Mental Illness and Behavioral Disorders

Depression, Schizophrenia, Drug/Alcohol/Substance Abuse, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Disease of the Respiratory System

Respiratory System Disorders

Influenza, Pneumonia, Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Cystic Fibrosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Symptoms, Signs and Ill-Defined Conditions

Ill-Defined or Subjective Conditions

Headache, Insomnia, Coma, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Sleep Apnea, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Anorexia, other symptoms without diagnosis

Infections and Parasitic Disease

Infectious and Parasitic Diseases

Food Poisoning, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Meningitis, Salmonella, Tuberculosis, Polio

Disease of the Digestive System

Digestive System Disorders

Gastric Ulcers, Gastritis, Appendicitis, Hernia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cirrhosis of the Liver, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Dental Disorders, Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

Endocrine, Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases and immunity Disorders

Nutritional, Metabolic, Regulatory and Immunity Disorders

Diabetes, Malnutrition, Obesity, Gout, Cystic Fibrosis, Thyroid Disorders

Diseases of the Genitourinary System

Genital and Waste Removal Disorders

Uterine Prolapse, Cervicitis, Menopausal Symptoms, Kidney and Bladder Disorders, Genital Organ Disorders, Kidney Failure, Enlarged Prostrate, Prostatitis, Urinary Tract Infections, Endometriosis

Complications of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Puerperium

Pregnancy and Complications of Pregnancy

Normal Delivery, Caesarean Section, Complications of Pregnancy, Toxemia, Ectopic Pregnancy, Pre-Term Complications

Diseases of the Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue

Skin Conditions and Disorders

Eczema, Dermatitis, Cellulitis, Psoriasis, Sebaceous Cyst

Congenital Anomalies

Inherited Conditions

Congenital Anomalies, Spina tend, Down’s Syndrome, Inherited Heart Valve Malfunction

Diseases of the Blood and Blood-Forming Organs

Blood Related Disorders

Anemia, Hemophilia, Sickle-Cell Disease, Diseases of the Spleen


Other Disorders

Other disorders not captured in categories above