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To NATCA Members:

My name is Don Smith. I am the agent and administrator for this group disability policy now about to begin its 13th year. I have seen and heard from many more members than what is posted here how this coverage has saved homes, kept cars from being repossessed, and just paid every day bills.

Many members don’t realize what a catastrophic disability can do to a family. Many members chose not to post testimonials and I respect that, however, I want to tell all of you the one statement I hear the most from our claimants. That is “I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

For many of us, we are the sole income for our families. And most of us don’t have months to a year of expenses set aside to cover if needed. Everyone thinks illnesses, injuries, and cancer won’t happen to them. But I am here to tell you it happens and most likely it will happen to 1 in 4 of us. So protect your paycheck!!

I lost my medical and was without available administrative duties for my service area. Thanks to Unum I had income and was able to pay my bills and support my family during such a crazy and scary time. In my opinion for the cost (less than $40 per pay period), there is no reason EVERYONE should not have NATCA disability insurance with Unum. Unum saved me and was worth every last penny!!

Meagan Garmon

My name is Mike Foster. I worked at DAB ATCT the last 17 years of my air traffic career. I signed up for the Unum insurance policy the month I became eligible to retire, only after being convinced by Steve Kippenberger, who was at our facility that day representing NATCA/Unum that I should consider signing up, because it was a great deal. My lifestyle alone made me a possible candidate for a career ending injury. I was not an easy sell until I did the math an evaluated risk versus reward. Three years later I slipped on Hole #8 at TPC Sawgrass & was unable to complete the round, including #17. For the golfers out there, that's alone says how hurt I was. I went first to a chiropractor for a year, then to an orthopedic specialist for three more years in which during that time I realized that my Unum policy was there for me if I could not make it to 56 without the need for daily pain killers. My coverage cost me a little over $6,000 during that time period between 2006 to 2013. My last day of air traffic was May 16, 2013. My official retirement was June 1st. My right hip was replaced Nov 14, 2013. The left is pending. I started receiving benefits from Unum in mid Sept 2013. It took only 3 months for me to be totally reimbursed. I would encourage everyone to sign up. The difference this additional income can be is so astronomical compared to a small premium.

Unum insurance disability payments were a financial Godsend when I was on Leave Without Pay. Partial payment continued even into my retirement.

Shawn Hazel

I have had 2 occasions to use NATCA’s long term disability policy in my career as a controller. Both times Unum paid my claim. I would recommend this coverage to all NATCA members.

In Solidarity,

Melissa Zilonis

As a Certified professional Air Traffic controller for the FAA at Milwaukee Tower, I was offered to purchase a disability policy from NATCA supported Unum in June of 2010. Being healthy, I never thought I would need such a policy and was reluctant to spend the small monthly premium fee for this type of protection. Obviously if something happened to me, (I thought), I would be covered by the FAA. However, I went ahead and purchased the insurance the same way a person would purchase a lottery ticket never expecting to gain anything from it. It wasn’t that expensive and thought “What the Heck?” Little did I know that within just a few short months I would find out how smart that purchase was.

I was involved in a recreational accident in August and lost eyesight in one eye. After pleading with the FAA to give me a medical waiver and trying to find placement within the agency, I was forced to medically retire. Only then did I realize that I would lose 60% of my income for the rest of my life. Unum immediately stepped up to the plate and started paying me supplemental income from my disability policy. The FAA waited over a year to pay me anything. Without the Unum payments, I would have been financially strapped.

If you think you can’t afford the NATCA sponsored Unum Disability policy; Think again. “You can’t afford to be without it!” They were helpful, trustworthy and paid the claim immediately with little effort required on my part. It was definitely the wisest purchase of my life.

Gregory L. Stein

Howdy, my name is Eric Tandberg, a controller at ZSE. Back in 2009 I was 44 years old, in great health, doing a job I enjoyed, with several hundred hours of sick leave, a full 240 hours of carry over annual leave, and really not a care in the world. Why I decided to go ahead and spend the money for the disability insurance through NATCA I don't really remember, but I thank God every day I did.

When the doctor gave me the news that I was apparently sick, in my case, with a cancer I had never heard of called Multiple Myeloma, I was thrown for a loop. I started to worry about things I didn't really care about days before. What about my medical clearance at work was one of my first thoughts. Then, will my facility be able to find work for me while I am medically decertified? When I'm going through chemo, how much will I be able to work? If I can't work, will we be able to keep the house? How can we possibly afford the medical care I am about to incur? And of course, what am I possibly going to do without hair?

I am glad to say that most everything worked itself out, and thankfully I got my hair back. But the financial Implications of what I had to go through were made substantially easier, by a lot, because I had the disability insurance through NATCA. The phone calls I made to Unum and the questions I had, and the answers I received took a lot of the load off some other things I had to worry about. But at least, the financial concerns were able to take a back seat while I dealt with more pressing issues. Had I not made the decision to get the disability insurance, the road I traveled would have been much harder just because we would not have been financially prepared for what was about to occur.

I sincerely hope that none of my NATCA brothers and sisters and their families have to go through what I went through. But if you do, I sincerely hope you take some friendly advice, and go ahead and get the disability insurance. It's affordable, effective, and if you do need to use it, the people you will deal with will be helpful, give you the answers you need, and hopefully ease some of the burden you have to carry for a while. All of us tend to think we are invincible and it will never happen to us. But it can. Trust me.

Eric Tandberg

Dear Leslie:

I'm writing to express my thanks and appreciation for the great service and care I received during my 6 months of being out of work for back surgery. I applied for the insurance two years ago and knowing that I was prepared took all the stress and anxiety off of my family and I. I had exhausted all my sick and annual leave and then exhausted all the donated leave. After contacting your office and providing the necessary paperwork, Kandy Jones from Unum Insurance called me immediately and took the time to explain how the insurance works, answered every question I had and when I hung up the phone, I knew that my family and I were being taken care of. The deposits were automatic into my bank account on time as promised.

To my fellow NATCA brothers and sisters, this insurance could make the difference between paying your bills, groceries and other necessities and bill collectors calling your house harassing you for money. I was on very strong pain medications before and after my surgery so it was impossible for me to deal with the everyday things that we deal with. My wife was able to focus on taking care of me and the household without one worry because we had this insurance thru NATCA! One never knows when you might find yourself in this kind of position. You can't go wrong with it! You pay for life insurance to make sure your family is taken care of in case you pass away. What about when you're laid up for several months or more and have no income? It's some of the best insurance I've ever paid into.

The staff at National Insurance, Don Smith and Leslie Tackett, were outstanding! Everything was handled almost immediately! Kandy Jones at Unum Insurance was awesome to deal with as well. Timely call backs, all questions answered, great communications and outstanding customer service!

I hope that I never have to use this type of insurance again but I know that should something happen, we are covered financially and will be taken care of!


Alan Gorski
Colorado Springs ATCT/TRACON

The most important advice a Controller can get is WORK SMART AND WORK SAFE!

To this I would add 4 words:  GET THE DISABILITY INSURANCE!

Our job is unique in many ways, not the least of which is the medical qualifications that we must maintain.  When you are faced with being medically disqualified, there is no counting on the FAA to be able to keep you working.

Thank goodness I had enrolled in the NATCA long term disability insurance program.

National Insurance Services was invaluable in getting forms out to me promptly and answering my many questions about the process.

At Unum, Kandy Jones was my Lead Disability Specialist and was extremely professional and reassuring as she handled my claim.  Everything was done as quickly as possible from processing the claim to the checks being deposited into my account. 

As part of the big picture in your financial planning, you wouldn’t go without car insurance or home insurance; so how could you not insure your livelihood?  The premiums are quite reasonable (about the cost of your daily coffee at work) and the peace of mind is priceless.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell other NATCA members about this essential part of planning for the future.  Every controller should be enrolled in this program as soon as they are eligible.

Karen Lee – ZNY

My concerns in the intensive care unit were not centered on a paycheck. I felt confident I would return to work in a couple of weeks.

When the physician informed me I would need 12-16 weeks for recovery, I still had no thoughts on a paycheck because I could be assigned to Admin Duties in the office.

Then the proverbial “boom” fell. The FAA Management team told me there would be no Admin Duties and sent me LWOP papers.

FAA Management told me that the flight surgeon indicated my physical was permanently Revoked for a minimum of 3 to 4 years.

Yes, I was now worried. I called NATCA for help. Thankfully, I was a participant in the Unum Disability Plan. NATCA and Unum worked together and advised me of what I could expect: “A PAYCHECK”.

There is no doubt that NATCA and Unum provided for me when the FAA had no concerns for an employee of 35 years of service.

My small investment with NATCA and Unum provided financial stability for my family.

We all need to join with NATCA and Unum to protect our families and ourselves.


I signed up for Unum disability insurance in June 2007 when I was 37 years old and in perfect health.  In May 2009 I had a stroke that left me paralyzed on my right side and the inability to speak.

My recovery was quicker than most, however it is a slow ongoing process.  Without Unum insurance I would have lost everything.  Even though I was generously supported in the leave donation program, it ran out before I could return to work.

It has been a little over a year and I still do not have my medical back, and I am thinking the soonest I will get it back is at least another year.

Unum is the best thing I ever did!

Holly Anderson
Air Traffic Controller
O’Hare Airport