Doctors of all sorts have to be physically, cognitively, and emotionally able to handle the various situations that may arise while on the job. The high level of schooling, training, and clinical experience needed for doctors and surgeons makes the profession expensive to get into. Doctors, surgeons, and physicians have jobs that can be taxing on the body. If you suffer from a debilitating injury or condition, you may be unable to work. Long-term disability insurance can be an important aspect of ensuring that you are protected in the event that you can no longer work if you become disabled.
“Disability” in the medical field is not the same as “disability” in insurance terms. The CDC defines a disability as “a condition… that makes it more difficult for [the person] to do certain activities and interact with the world around them.” However, the insurance company will look at it in terms of your ability to perform the duties associated with your profession. In order to be considered disabled, your condition or injury must prevent you from being able to perform your job.
While you are likely insured, either from the hospital or from a private plan, that doesn’t mean you are automatically protected. Insurance companies work hard to limit payouts except for those who are truly disabled in their eyes. However, working with an experienced disability attorney can increase your chances of getting approved. By providing the right evidence, your disability attorney can provide the insurer with a solid claim that could get you the benefits you deserve.
Insurers Use Outdated Job Descriptions for Doctors and Surgeons
Generally, a long-term disability insurance company will look at job descriptions as defined by the US Department of Labor. Their Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) provides a description of the duties a job requires. However, these descriptions are often outdated and minimalist. For example, it classifies physicians and surgeons as “light” work. This means there is a significant amount of walking or standing, but rarely lifting/carrying items weighing 20 lbs or more. This does not capture the full physical or cognitive requirements of the position. Often, the insurer will look at your ability to maintain the significant amount of walking or standing needed for your job, and not so much the other requirements.
If a surgeon develops arthritis in the hands or wrists, they may not able to perform surgery safely. However, they will likely be able to walk around the amount listed in the DOT. Because of this, the insurer may not approve the disability claim. In order to avoid this, your claim should provide a detailed description of the duties of your position, and how your condition prevents you from performing those tasks.
The DOT on Physician Duties
According to the DOT, a physician can fit under a variety of codes based on specialty. Often these include the following:
- Examining patients
- Using medical instruments and equipment
- Elicits and records medical information
- Orders and/or executes various tests
- Analyzes reports and findings of tests
- Diagnoses patient conditions
- Administers or prescribes treatments or medications
Despite this list requiring very little regarding the standing/walking portion of the job description, that is what an insurance company will focus on. A doctor’s work can be both physically and cognitively demanding. Because of this, showing the full extent of how your debilitating condition limits your capacity to work.
The DOT on Surgeon Duties
The description of a surgeon lists an assortment of occupational duties. These may vary for specialized surgeons. the list of duties includes the following:
- Performs surgery to correct deformities, repair injuries, prevent diseases, or improve function
- Examines patients to verify the necessity of an operation
- Estimating potential risk factors
- Determining the best operational procedure
- Reviews patient’s reports & medical history, physical condition, and reactions to medications
- Examines instruments and surgical setup
Doctors Providing More Detail Regarding Your Job Description
Part of your claim will be providing a detailed depiction of all of your duties as a doctor. Your disability attorney can help you with this task. Often, this goes well beyond the description of your position from your employer. This may include how often you need to lift or move patients, for example. For specializations, these depictions can be even more important.
Physical Demands for Doctors & Surgeons
Doctors require very specific physical skills. Additionally, these can be even more narrow, depending on specialties. These requirements go worlds beyond sitting, walking, bending, or standing. For example, good vision is definitely required for surgery, so having macular degeneration could be a major disability. Steady hands and good dexterity are important for most doctors, as well. The ability to bend over a patient for long periods of time can be important for treating patients or performing surgery. Because of this back conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, can be especially debilitating.
Cognitive Demands for Doctors & Surgeons
A doctor should be cognitively sound in order to provide the best care for a patient. Doctors need to remember key treatment practices, advise proper medication dosages, and more. As such, conditions that affect concentration, memory, and complex problem-solving may limit your capacity in the medical field. Unfortunately, the DOT descriptions barely mention cognitive requirements such as these. Some disabling conditions that might impact your cognitive functioning might include Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) or depression.
Communication Requirements of Your Profession
For doctors and surgeons, communication can be a vital aspect of your job. Communicating effectively with patients is important for discussing their symptoms, needs, and treatment options, and developing relationships with them. Additionally, you will need to be able to communicate with nurses, attendants, and other doctors in order to provide effective care to your patients. If a disabling condition limits your ability to provide effective communication, you may not be able to do your duties correctly. Conditions like tinnitus, which can affect your hearing, could impact your communication.