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Vocational Retraining - Does it work?

When it comes to disability, having income protection is essential, but what about when recovery is challenging and returning to work isn’t easy to impossible?

Friday, July 1st 2022, 10:44AM

by Jon-Paul Hale

Most disability claims return to work in their own occupation, so things like retraining and changing careers are not that common.

However, they can be a critical part of the recovery process, an area that’s not often looked at closely by advisers. Retraining is a consequence of the policy advice, not the reason for the policy advised.

Which is how it should be. Retraining is a long way down the claim track and infrequently used.

However, when it comes to this benefit, our understanding of how it works differs from the reality. As advisers how, we are trained about it and how it works in reality.

Our training from providers is typically a byline “If unable to return to their own occupation; then there is the ability to retrain in another vocation to return to work.”

And primarily, this is what Asteron Life’s Workability Cover is designed around.

We know that returning people to work, any work, is psychologically good for people. Having purpose and reason means a healthier life outcome for those dealing with long-term disability and medical conditions.

The challenge here driving my typing is how this vocational benefit is actually being administered.

As advisers, we assume that the pressure of long terms claims will drive the use of vocational retraining. Except the reality appears different.

Reading through the various policy wordings in the market, they all have vocational retraining as a discretionary benefit subject to claim manager or insurer approval. Or, in the case of one insurer I’m dealing with, the discretion of the reinsurer.

The policyholder’s choice to pursue a career of interest is solely at the insurer’s discretion. This hardly seems fair.

Having seen a few of these and discussions with many advisers, the wishes of those on a claim to engage in career options that would improve their life outcomes are being denied by insurers.

This is an interesting situation that doesn’t make much sense when insurers are faced with long-term claims and increasing cost pressure on disability sustainability.

Is this due to them assuming that they will have long-term costs and don’t want to throw more at it?
Or is it due to some idea that these cases won’t find work or be capable in their new field of study?

As an adviser with over 20 years of exposure to complicated and long-term claims, I have six permanent IP disability claims I look after presently; I don’t understand the attitude or approach of blocking retraining benefits by insurers.

I have had one of these paid, just the one. And in a situation where the insurer, Fidelity Life, could have just as easily said no, as this was 14 months into a 24-month employee benefit disability claim.

The situation was a young woman with an injury that resulted in a heath & safety restriction making her TPD for her occupation. Retaining was an option, and there wasn’t going to be long-term financial support.

The outcome here was the right one for the situation. But many are being denied this, but we don’t have much information on this as insurers either don’t collect the data or they don’t report it.

My questions to you:
* How many retraining benefits have been asked for?
* How many retraining benefits have been approved?
* How many granted resulted in a return to gainful employment?

I have one of the three I have requested, and that one is in gainful employment.

Tags: Jon-Paul Hale

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