When a dentist is facing a disabling illness or injury, among the many significant issues that arise; financial stress is often one of their first concerns.  This is a very legitimate concern, especially for newer practitioners who are often in significant debt.  This issue will not go away, and giving injured/ill dentists hope and the tools to survive is our goal.

Unfortunately, the truth of the dilemma faced is often worse than anticipated. We sincerely hope that you have an excellent disability policy.  See our numerous previous posts on this issue and how to file a successful claim.How do I make a Disability Claim?  It would be great if we all could be independently wealthy and or save sufficient capital to survive a disabling event that prevents us from practicing.  This is often not the case, and many will need to look at transitioning into alternative careers to meet their financial obligations.

Transitioning into a related field or just finding any rewarding work as a disabled dentist  can be extremely challenging.  Hopefully an opportunity arises that appeals to you and you can just to your new reality.  This may include exploring job opportunities in consulting, education, or dental sales.  The possibilities are numerous, and look to this website for many valid encore career ideas.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

Some practitioners may be unable to work part-time or transition into a new field. They are left with financial support from their disability claim, savings, and investments.  Having a solid investment portfolio in stocks, bonds, real estate, annuities, and for some a guaranteed pension plan is entirely another issue.  Get started on these options now.

Once your search exhausts all these potential financial resources, you are likely left with Federal Social Security.  You can apply for SSDI at any age.   You can apply for SS because you are over the age of 62, or you apply for SSDI Social Security Disability, which you can immediately gain access to.  You can also apply for SSDI after the age of 62, and will get higher monthly payments than if you apply for standard SS.  Your payments will revert to standard SS at full retirement age, Likely age 66-67.

For a high number of you, applying for SSDI is a legitimate option when seeking financial support/relief.  The application process is relatively straightforward and will take time depending on your disability circumstances.   See the Federal website for detailed instructions.   There is a HUGE amount of information on the NET, regarding applying for SSDI and make a sincere effort to review the steps involved in making an application is required.   Getting an attorney involved, is an option and may actually be necessary in a fair number of cases; but not all.  Use your best judgement regarding this issue.

Getting on SSDI is not without risk. Getting approved and staying in the program is not guaranteed. SSDI is a two-edged sword, and getting off SSDI may be harder than getting on SSDI.  You will be disqualified if you earn too much.  The exact number changes not infrequently and don’t expect to be able to earn much more than $1000 a month and still qualify.  You will be evaluated monthly and annually.  If you earn too much, you risk losing your benefits. For some this is not a problem, but for many who have some residual working capacity this will lead to sincere frustration.  The temptation to work for under the table wages will be ever-present for many.

In addition, once the checks start coming in; leaving this steady source of income becomes harder each month you receive a new check.  The poverty cycle is well known to many and is not different for a disabled dentist.  You may be severely ill or injured and it will be an easy choice to remain on this government subsidy.  It will not cover all your expenses, but will definitely help.   Regaining your sense of value and relevance are another issue entirely.   We have discussed those issues before and they are very private and personal.  See our prior postings on our website.WHAT DOES A SICK/ILL DENTIST DO NOW?

Another benefit and possible hook to trap you in the cycle are guaranteed additional payments to any minor children you have.  These additional funds up the total amount you receive each month significantly.  Do not overlook these funds and enter them into your deliberations to apply, reject, continue, or refuse SSDI/SS.

In the long run, you will need to face some very tough decisions. If you start SSDI, you can always stop. Reapplication is not prohibited and you can update your status as it either deteriorates or improves. You are a citizen of the USA , and have the right to access these programs. This includes MEDICARE at an early age (before age 65) if you are disabled.  Again, you will need to review your eligibility with the local Social Security office.

If you apply, be prepared with detailed medical records.  Have all the pertinent documents ready, as well as contact information for all your treating physicians.  Be prepared for initial denial, and there is a very efficient appeal process.  Use of an attorney is always at your discretion, but be ready to pay. Do your homework before selecting any legal firm to represent you in front of a Healthcare Judge.

This is not the most pleasant topic to discuss, but it is necessary.  We hope you have the tools and motivation to research your options for SSDI.   Don’t take no for an answer and be persistent.  There is significant detailed information available on the NET, and review it with healthy skepticism.  We will keep you posted on any changes that may be relevant to the dental community and are always ready to answer questions.








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