Disability Insurance Claim Advice
Extending a Helping Hand of Hope . . .
California Broker February 2011
By Art Fries
I have given advice to many professionals in connection with their disability claims over the past 12 years. Secondary depression-related factors often appear as a result of physical symptoms. Here is a typical scenario: Your client has been a highly successful a surgeon or dentist who now has cervical disc problems that prevent him from leaning forward and moving or extending his neck for long periods.
There may be multiple symptoms involving the low back or hands, arms or shoulders. The longer your client continues to work, the higher his pain threshold increases. Your client may not 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 in undergraduate medical or dental school, the financial 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 friends or relatives. Added stress is created for the family.
It is not a happy time. It’s almost as if he has lost a loved one; these feelings are quite normal. But there is hope in knowing that he will get past this period and usually the emotional feelings are temporary. Sometimes, your client will tell you that his wife is upset as a result of his having to go on disability claim. What does she tell her friends? How does she handle this loss of identity (being married to a surgeon or dentist)? I usually suggest that the client visit with a psychiatrist or psychologist to get over this hump. Within time, the feeling will disappear.
Sometimes, the client finds another job does not 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-time or part-time) and the disability benefits (often tax free) have a tendency to instill confidence in your client and help him get past the emotional turmoil of ending his career.
Other times, the client may not work at another job, but will get to spend more time with 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 while having a high level of constant or intermittent pain can lead to permanent damage and clinical mistakes. Your client might not have any pain, but have an essential tremor that causes his hands to shake or is losing vision, which affects his performance. He should not wait for the malpractice claims to begin because his ego was too big for him to consider the alternatives.
In summation, it’s O.K. for your client to admit that he has a health problem. There is no written law that says we must work until we drop. For clients who feel that the walls are closing it, it’s smart to get professional help from a therapist and get better control their emotions. Your client purchased disability insurance, paying substantial premiums to keep him close to his world if he became sick or hurt and couldn’t do his things. It wasn’t your client’s intent to profit from this purchase; often the benefits will be less than the client’s previous earnings. But it’s now time for the insurance company to honor its promises and pay money that the client is entitled to. Your client had the good sense to purchase disability coverage. Knowing that he will have cash flow to replace a portion of his earned income should go a long way toward reducing the stress so often related to a disability claim.