Disability Insurance Claim Advice
Denial of Disability ... A Dentist’s Worst Nightmare
Los Angeles Doctor of Dentistry, March/April 2006
By Art Fries
Over the past 10 years, I have provided advice to dentists, surgeons, chiropractors and other professionals in connection with their disability claims. Lots of these claims involve repetitive movements, doing the same procedures day in and day out with little time to rest.
When machines wear out we replace them or replace the part. Often it’s too expensive to replace the part, so we get another machine. But what about when parts of a dentist “wear out?” As one who has been on disability claim, I understand how “denial” plays an important role in deciding when and if to go on disability.
The following are direct quotes from narratives that my dental clients have provided to their insurance companies in connection with a partial or total disability claim. These narratives go well beyond claim forms to give an insurance company a clear understanding how my clients feel. Have you had similar experiences and feelings?
“Several times I had to leave the operatory during the procedure to lie down in my private office because I knew I could not perform the procedure adequately. I could take deep breaths and tell myself, ‘It’s OK, you can get through this.’ But I could tell something was definitely wrong with me. I went into the restroom and cried, wondering what was going on with me. A simple task was now becoming and impossible chore for me to perform.”
“My symptoms included neck pain, right arm, and shoulder pain, numbness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, headaches and loss of fine tactile touch. I missed hundreds of hours from work seeing M.D.s, physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists. I was destined to live with pain levels of between 5 and 10 on a 10 scale. I could not take prescription medications for pain and see patients. Nonprescription medications ruined by GI tract.”
“ I woke up two or three times a night with recurring nightmares about traumatizing patients. These fearful thoughts and the indecision and frustration about having to stop my life’s work (coupled with the pain and loss of performance) have increased my irritability and depression. As a result, I have withdrawn socially a great deal and office and marital tensions have greatlyincreased.”
“I found myself snapping at staff members if they said anything which aggravated me, and it seemed as if everything was getting to me. I thought they could not do anything right. When I got home it seemed that everything my husband said to me would throw me into a rage. I’d yell at him for no reason an then feel bad about it.”
“I realize I cannot continue to insult my deteriorated spine banging up and down in a dental stool 80 to 110 times a day. My emotional state is a critical mess. I am seeing a psychiatrist and I am taking anti-depression medication, as I have harbored some self-destructive thoughts.”
“I am constantly dropping instruments, slipping and having little accidents, like cutting a patient’s cheek or tongue. The quality of my work is suffering tremendously. I am no longer proud of the quality of my work. Just last week I dropped a running high-speed handpiece in a patient’s mouth. Luckily it landed with the burr pointing up. I have recently dropped a sharp root canal instrument in a patient’s eye. Luckily it didn’t stick.”
If you have medical symptoms, get medical advice. If these symptoms continue to be a source of danger to yourself or your patients, cut back your schedule or STOP PRACTICING DENTISTRY.