As he finished his 1 minute exam his exact words seared into my brain and are as clear to me today as if they’d just been uttered. “Oh honey, if this is dysplasia I’ll be very happy for you. But in my experience this is cancer. Get dressed and come to my office.”

Disability Insurance For Relief VeterinariansI’d graduated from vet school less than 3 months prior, was working at my internship in Tampa, Florida, and had just been diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. Health insurance? Yep. Life insurance? Nope. Disability insurance? Nope.

Luckily for me, there were multiple factors that helped me survive financially during my months of chemo and radiation treatments. But this is not everyone’s reality. And a diagnosis like this can create devastating financial hardship.

In the second of a two part series on disability insurance* (for part one, click here), John Carmichael, Senior Associate with Capstone Financial and a strategic partner with the Veterinary Insurance Services Company, (VISC)**, provides us with some key questions about disability insurance that relief veterinarians can ask themselves and their insurance advisors.

Key Questions for a Relief Veterinarian in Considering Individual Disability Income Insurance

1) How does the company define the “own occupation definition of disability” Would I be able to earn income from a different occupation while receiving benefits from my policy? Is there a limitation on income in my post disability occupation in order to maintain my benefits? What is the maximum own occupation benefit period?

2) How much experience does the insurance agent have in the area of disability income insurance? Some advisors have little or no experience.

3) Does the insurance agent evaluate your disability income needs first then make product recommendations based on your needs or make a product recommendation first? Similar to recommending a treatment plan for a dog/cat before performing an examination.

4) Is the agent captive to one disability income insurance company or can they offer other quality insurance companies? Having an ample toolkit of products from different companies can help provide options. Working with an independent advisor can help reduce doubts, at least from a product standpoint, that your best interest may be served. If a Toyota Highlander is most suited for needs and my salesperson can only sell Chevrolets, you may consider moving on.

5) Is the insurance company you are considering an established and reputable carrier in the disability income insurance marketplace? Some life insurance companies offer disability income insurance but it may be only a very small part of their business. There are a handful of life insurance companies that are dedicated to the disability income insurance market.

6) As an independent contractor, confirm how financial eligibility for monthly benefits is calculated. Is it income (before taxes) – expenses on Schedule C? Do you have to work a minimum number of hours per week?

7) Is there a benefit for Mental/Nervous disorders? Maximum benefit period?

8) Ask about claims experience. If you have been paying premiums for your disability income insurance policy, you want to have at least some confidence that the company would fulfill its promise to honor a legitimate claim rather than look for a way to deny a claim?

9) Medical Eligibility: There is no standard for medical underwriting between disability income insurance companies. Medical underwriting can range from conservative to more liberal. If you have a medical history that may impact your eligibility for disability income insurance, it can be important to make a medical inquiry. With a medical inquiry, you may be able to minimize the chance that you are declined coverage after going through the underwriting process.

10) What if I am missing days at work due to a partial disability? Is there a benefit for a partial disability? Are there limitations/restrictions that I need to know?

11) Who will I call if I have a possible claim and/or questions about my policy? Will you need to try and find an 800 number for client support or will you have your agent’s name and number?

For further information, John Carmichael can be reached via email at [email protected] or on his cell phone at (916) 847-9917.


*Disability insurance protects your income when you can’t work due to injury or illness.

**VISC was created by the California Veterinary Medical Association and is the only veterinary association member- owned insurance brokerage firm in the country.

If you are a relief vet, practice looking to hire a relief vet, or just want to learn more about relief life, sign up for your free membership here!