Disability Insurance Claim Advice
Disabiliby Claims . . .the Emotional Side
New Directions (NY: Chiropractic Council), August 2011
By Art Fries
Over the past 12 years I have provided advice to many chiropractors in connection with their disability claims. Often there are secondary depressionary factors as a result of physical symptoms. A typical scenario:
My client is a chiropractor who now has cervical problems that prevent him from leaning forward and moving his neck or extending same for long periods of time. Sometimes there may be multiple symptoms involving the low back or hands, arms or shoulders. The longer the chiropractor continues to work, the higher his pain threshold increases. There is often denial on his part and he doesn't want to accept the fact that he may be posing a danger to himself or to his patients. He thinks about the long hours he studied, the economic sacrifices he made in the early years and his sense of identity coming to an end. His personal life may also be affected in terms of athletic activities becoming restricted and he may take more prescription medication or drink excessively to control the pain. His financial "house of cards" will crumble if he goes on a disability claim unless he has a great deal of savings or enough disability benefits to maintain a somewhat reasonable lifestyle. Sometimes his lifestyle will be reduced and he may be forced to live in a less expensive area, losing contact with close personal friends or relatives. The stress on the chiropractor creates added stress for the family. It is not a happy time! It's almost as if he has lost a loved one and these feelings are quite normal. But there is hope knowing that he will get past this period and usually the emotional feelings are temporary in nature.
Sometimes my client will tell me that his wife is upset as a result of his having to go on a disability claim. What does she tell her friends? How does she handle this loss of identity (being married to THE chiropractor)? I usually suggest that my client visit with a psychiatrist or psychologist to get over this "hump" and that with time the feeling will disappear.
Sometimes my client finds another job that is not in conflict with his symptoms and is collecting disability benefits on a long-term basis under a "your occupation" definition. The combination of the earnings from the other job (full or part-time) and the disability benefits (often tax free) have a tendency to instill confidence in the chiropractor and get past the emotional turmoil of ending his career. Other times, the chiropractor may not work at another job and gets to spend more time with his family and do things he never had time to do in the past. This also helps to get him over the "hump."
Continuing to work when one is in constant pain or intermittent pain at a high level can lead to permanent damage and clinical mistakes. Don't wait for the malpractice claims to flow because your "ego" was too big to consider the alternatives. You purchased disability insurance, paying substantial premiums to "keep you close to your world" if you became sick or hurt and couldn't do "your thing." But now it's time for the insurance company to honor their promises and pay you monies that you are entitled to. Knowing that you'll have cash flow to replace a portion of your earned income should go a long way to reducing the amount of stress so often related to a disability claim.