This is the first in a series of articles designed to showcase various topics related to disability claims that are particularly relevant to medical professionals. When a client seeks our assistance regarding their need to file a disability claim under an insurance policy, we first determine when they became disabled. If the disabling medical condition is caused by a sudden accident or injury the date of disability is usually clear. Often the disability is instead caused by a progressive illness or condition that was initially manageable but became more limiting over time. Some examples of these long term conditions may be Multiple Sclerosis, herniated discs in the neck or low back, essential tremors or arthritis.
Most professionals will attempt to make accommodations or adjustments to their practice in order to remain at work as long as they can before beginning the process to file a disability claim. Steps taken might include relinquishing certain work duties/procedures that exacerbate the condition, reducing or eliminating hospital or emergency call, and reducing patient care hours. The medical professional may refer difficult cases out to other colleagues. These are all prudent and reasonable accommodations to make but they often lead to a significant loss of income over time.
Stoic individuals that continue to work despite brewing disability are essentially “working while disabled.” In these instances, we take the time to determine when exactly the disability began, and when did it interfere with the established duties of the occupation. The reason for this analysis is to evaluate whether we can date the claim to a time period even before the client meets with us. Why does this matter? Three incentives: establish a claim earlier so the waiting period for benefits has already occurred; establish a loss of earnings from the “working while disabled” period of time so that benefits can begin; and thirdly establish a basis for calculating a loss of earnings when the professional was earning the most in his/her profession.