The number of long-term disability claims continues to climb, according to the Council for Disability Awareness. As the baby boomers grow older, this number has seen parallel increases, and in 2011 the number rose even while the number of wage-earners protected by private disability income insurance declined for the third consecutive year.

"It is a serious concern that even as long term disability claims rise, fewer of America's wage earners have protected their incomes from the serious loss that could result if an illness or injury prevented them from working," said Lundquist. "Our research continues to demonstrate that workers dramatically underestimate their risk of disability, and too often don't think about protecting their most valuable financial resource – their income."

Of the 155,000 new disability claimants approved by CDA member companies during 2011, more than half (57 percent) were women, a percentage that has slowly increased compared to the percentage of claims from men.

"We continue to see an overall increase in long term disability claims filed over time," said Barry Lundquist, president of the CDA. "The aging workforce and a painfully-slow jobs recovery are clearly having an impact. Also, the jobs environment continues to be an obstacle to returning recovering workers to productive employment."

However, the number of participating companies indicated an increase was less in 2011 (43 percent) than it was in 2010 (56 percent). Also promising, 2011 was the first year since 2008 when the number of employers with long term disability insurance plans increased over the year prior.

The age group seeing the largest increase was 60 years old and up—signifying the boomers; New claims for those under age 40, and for individuals in their 50's remained steady, while claims for individuals between ages 40 and 50 have declined over the past four years, according to the CDA’s report.

In total, CDA member companies paid more than $9.3 billion in long term disability insurance claims in 2011, which is a 2 percent increase from 2010.

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