Eric Neumann’s Disability Claim Story


1994, in the fall of Junior year (Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, Illinois), 16-year old Eric fell at the doorway of his bedroom, in a massive epileptic seizure. He was planning to take his drivers’ test that afternoon. Instead, he woke in the hospital. This was the first seizure episode since Eric contracted bacterial meningitis at 6-months old. During that first illness, he had a few seizures and permanently lost some hearing in one ear. Doctors testing Eric after the seizure in 1994 concluded he did not have epilepsy.


February 1996, Eric fell in the school hallway after lunch, and woke from a massive seizure in the nurse’s office. School administrators did not call an ambulance. In his Senior year, Eric was diagnosed with epilepsy, and put on the first of many regimens of medication to control his seizures.


1996 – 2005, Eric played soccer, attended college and began his Northwestern Mutual career. He experienced multiple seizures throughout, which were increasingly troubling. Every time doctors changed his medications, Eric would struggle with new symptoms and different triggers for seizures. He experienced the ‘aura’ which warned an attack was coming on, and because he bit his tongue during his episodes, Eric was often in pain and shy to speak.


2002, Eric applied for individual Disability Insurance and was declined. Luckily, Northwestern Mutual’s employee benefits include a smaller Disability Group Benefit, which he was eligible for.


December, 2005, Eric’s Saab saved his life. During a seizure, he was involved in a 4-car pileup on Rte. 94 at Division Street. The car was totaled, and Eric broke his wrist. He began to notice stimulants such as tobacco and depressants like alcohol triggered severe epilepsy events. He suffered disrupted sleep and panic attack-like symptoms prior to seizures, which occurred in multiples. It became unsafe to drive.


March, 2006, Eric checked himself into Rush Medical Center for a series of sleep studies and neuro testing. Doctors discovered his left hippocampus, and left temporal lobe, were permanently damaged by the bacterial meningitis he contracted as an infant. The neural differences and seizures were related to this damage.


Eric hired a college intern to drive him to and from client appointments and his Northwestern Mutual office.


November 6-9, 2006, Eric had multiple neurosurgeries. First, part of his skull was removed, and sensors were placed directly on his brain. The skull was temporarily closed, and neurosurgeons put Eric through a battery of painful tests to map the areas of his brain governing speech, memory recall and more. In two more surgeries, the left temporal lobe and 90% of the left hippocampus were removed. These procedures had a predicted 80% chance of success—the risk was terrifying, but acceptable, as the epileptic seizures had become so problematic Eric could scarcely work. The surgeries were successful.


November 6, 2006, Eric took full disability benefits. He laid off his employees. He didn’t do any work with his Northwestern Mutual practice until later in 2007, when he returned to part-time employment. In early 2008, Eric returned to full-time work and stopped his disability benefits. During the time away from his practice, Eric worked with occupational and physical therapists, regaining speech and memory recall. He was able to take time to recover completely, with peace of mind, because of the careful planning he’d done.


2008-2010, Doctors refined the medication regimen. Eric has been seizure-free since the neuro-surgeries in 2006. His story is a great success.


What can we take away from Eric’s story?


Most people think they’re invincible, and that all will be well if they experience a period when they can’t work. Business owners (and almost everyone) put in 50+ hours per week, yet they simultaneously believe they can step away and their office will run itself.


This contradictory belief, that they are both essential to the daily operation of their business, and that the business will run itself, is the reason why Eric is blunt with his clients.


His personal story proves that planning for the risk of illness and disability is essential to a comprehensive financial plan. His recovery was greatly helped by the peace of mind he had, knowing his expenses were covered.


Eric wants his story to encourage business owners to create a well-rounded plan to care for their families, and preserve the business they devote themselves to for years.

Eric Jörg Neumann

Eric Jörg Neumann, CLU®, ChFC®, CASL®, CLTC®, RICP®

Wealth Management Advisor


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