It is open enrollment season again, and it’s vitally important that we all take a little bit of time to review our benefits. I feel that if 2020 has been good for anything, it’s been to hammer home the idea that we live in an unpredictable world and work in an even more unpredictable industry. Those of you that were flying during the aftermath of 9⁄11 likely had more of a first hand understanding how quickly things can go south in our line of work, but the reality of it came as an unbelievable shock to me. There’s not much that any of us could have done to predict what this year would have in store for us, but there are things that we can do to hedge against whatever chaos 2021 has waiting. One of the most important benefits that we can opt into here at JetBlue is Short and Long Term Disability. Pilots more so than those in other professions desperately need to have adequate disability insurance in place. An injury or illness that would be a minor inconvenience for others could force us out of work for months or years. In this COVID nightmare especially, wait times for special issuances are skyrocketing due to decreased staffing at the aeromedical offices of the FAA in DC and Oklahoma City. Many personal finance advisors recommend keeping an emergency fund of 3-6 months expenses worth of cash on hand to cover life’s unexpected downturns, but even this might be too conservative when your medical certificate is buried in a pile of paperwork in OKC. This is why disability is so important; it is a God-send to have it there to bridge the gap and keep the bills paid when you are out of work. In my time volunteering with the Blue Pilot Fund this has become more and more evident to me. We will all face some sort of hardship at some point, and often disability is the difference between a nuisance and a catastrophe. It is also important for members to understand how disability insurance affects how a hardship is evaluated. According to our charter, when the fund is evaluating a hardship, the board is required to operate under the assumption that the distressed pilot is properly insured. See the following excerpt:
A distressed pilot not participating in Long Term Disability (LTD) or Short Term Disability (STD) insurance does not disqualify a distressed pilot from a fund distribution. However, the Chairman and Treasurer may assume each distressed pilot benefits from those programs whether they actually do or not. The Blue Pilot Fund is not insurance and cannot assume the roles of these standard programs that are available to each and every pilot. We all donate to the BPF (and your board volunteers our time) because we have a passion for helping our friends and coworkers when life deals the harshest blows, but in order to remain compliant with our governing documents and tax law we simply cannot act as a substitute for insurance.
It is HIGHLY recommended that everybody makes the investment in a short and long term disability plan. Additionally, the Blue Pilot Fund board encourages all pilots to consider whether the high buy up is the right option for you. If 60% of your average weekly pay (as calculated by the formula located in the benefits guide) is more than $1,500 you are better off being in the high plan. For many First Officers that means the core plan is sufficient, however many Captains and higher earning First Officers are underinsured if they remain in the core plan. $1,500 a week and 52 weeks a year gives us $78,000 which is 60% of $130,000. This means that if you are making over roughly $130,000 a year, the high buy up may be your best option. We are never happy to see a hardship come in, as it represents a coworker that finds themselves in tough times, but there is nothing worse than being unable to fully help somebody because of underinsurance and legal restrictions on the board. We hope that you all will take
this into consideration. Fly safe and stay healthy!