Recently, while researching the veterinary industry, I came across the acronym “NOMV” which stands for “Not One More Vet”. NOMV is an organization that was established in 2014 following the tragic suicide of Dr. Sophia Yin. Dr. Yin was a highly regarded veterinarian, author and international expert on animal behaviour who took her own life at age 48. NOMV provides a community of support and services for those in the veterinary profession struggling with mental health issues.
The Dark Side Of Animal Welfare
One might think that the veterinary profession is an ideal one, spending all day caring for animals. Yet, according to studies (provide link to research) conducted by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the University of Guelph, rates of suicide and suicidal ideation is higher for veterinarians, with members of this group almost four times as likely to commit suicide than the general population.
Most veterinarians enter the profession propelled by an overwhelming love for animals and they care deeply for their well-being. They often develop relationships with their animal charges. That makes dealing with animals that are extremely unwell or that need to be euthanized extremely challenging emotionally. This is particularly so on two sides of the spectrum: when the animal’s poor state of health is a result of human neglect or abandonment or when a family is devastated by the potential loss of a beloved pet.
The Emotional Toll On Vets & Their Staff
With the increase in pet ownership propelled by the Pandemic, veterinarians and their staff are facing increasingly long work hours and intensive shifts which can lead to fatigue, burnout and mental health issues. They may also face abuse and criticism from pet owners who are dissatisfied with the delivery of difficult news or the cost of services required to preserve their pet’s health and well-being.
For many veterinarians, even when they are unwell, the thought of taking time away from their practices is fraught with difficulties. Their concern for their pet patients and ensuring business preservation and the livelihood of their employees in a competitive industry can often result in veterinarians trying to continue to work despite ongoing struggles with mental and physical health issues. This can have serious consequences for their health and decisions to continue working can have repercussions for their claims for long term disability when they are eventually no longer able to work.
The Challenges of Long Term Disability Claims
As business owners, the veterinarians our office represents typically have long term disability benefits coverage through an individual insurance policy. Individual or Private disability insurance involves an individual contracting directly with an insurance company for the insurance coverage rather than receiving coverage through an employer.
- Many of these individual insurance policies contain a proof of claim provision which requires the submission of a claim within a certain time period from when the disability arose. We have seen insurers deny claims on the basis of late filing, using the veterinarian’s hesitation in filing a disability claim against them.
- The timing of a disability claim can also have implications on what income is used to calculate benefits. If income continues to decline due to difficulties maintaining the same schedule for health reasons, by the time a claim is submitted, the veterinarian may be dealing with a lower benefit amount than initially contemplated.
Veterinarians who purchase “Own Occupation” riders as part of their insurance policies may still find their disability claims denied even though they are in fact unable to work as veterinarians. An “Own Occupation” rider is often marketed by insurers as a way to obtain disability coverage when you are unable to work in your own profession. It is not uncommon, however, to see insurers indicating that a claim is denied on the basis that the veterinarian can still perform office work or managerial duties even though they cannot perform their duties as a veterinarian.
It is critical that veterinarians who own multiple practices or who perform administrative and managerial duties in addition to their veterinary tasks consider how to address these issues in their application forms, claim forms and during the claims adjudication process as failure to do so could result in a non-compensable claim
MK Disability Lawyers Can Help
As long term disability lawyers representing veterinarians, we have developed legal strategies and techniques to address disability benefit denials and terminations. We are familiar with the delays and tactics employed by insurers when dealing with professionals and with individual policies and we know how to combat those effectively.
MK Disability Lawyers understands the extensive stressors faced by our veterinarian clients and our goal is to provide the support and services needed so that our clients can focus on their mental and physical health and not on fighting insurance companies.
If you are a veterinarian and your claim has been denied or terminated for any reason or you wish to discuss submitting an application for disability benefits, consider discussing your long-term disability claim with an experienced disability lawyer.
MK Disability Lawyers LLP are experienced lawyers dedicated exclusively to the practice of disability insurance. We have over 50 years of cumulative experience representing veterinarians in their long term disability claims. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Please contact us online or by calling us TF at 844-697-4600.
DISCLAIMER: The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. This blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, you understand that there is no solicitor-client relationship between you and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction. If your disability claim has been denied and you require legal advice, contact a lawyer specializing in disability law for professionals.