top of page

What Accountants and Financial Advisors Should Know About Disability Insurance

accountants and financial advisors and disability insurance - piggy back and ledger book

If you are an accountant or financial advisor, your income depends on your ability to work with numbers, data, and clients.  But what if you suffer an injury or illness that prevents you from performing your duties?  How would you cope with the loss of income and the potential impact on your career?  Disability insurance can provide a valuable safety net for professionals in this field.

In this article, we will explain what disability insurance is, how it works, and what accountants and financial advisors need to know when seeking short or long term disability benefits.


What Disability Insurance Do Accountants/Financial Advisors Need?

puzzle pieces of accountant disability insurance

As an accountant or financial advisor, navigating the complexities of disability insurance is crucial to ensuring your financial stability.  These benefits are designed to provide income replacement in the event of disabling illness or injury.  Here’s what you need to know about the types of disability insurance that are available to you.

Group Disability Insurance

Firstly, you may have access to group disability insurance through your employer.  This type of policy provides a base level of protection and is often a cost-effective option.  Group policies typically cover around 60% of your salary, up to a certain cap.  However, it’s important to note that benefits from group disability insurance are usually taxable if your employer pays the premiums.  This means the actual amount you receive could be significantly less than your current earnings, potentially impacting your ability to maintain your financial lifestyle in the event of a disability.

Individual Disability Insurance

For more comprehensive coverage, individual disability insurance is a viable option.  Unlike group policies, individual policies are portable, meaning they stay with you even if you change jobs.  This type of insurance allows for more customization, including the definition of disability, benefit periods, and riders like cost-of-living adjustments.  Importantly, benefits from individual disability insurance are typically tax-free if you pay the premiums with after-tax dollars, providing you with a higher net benefit.

Why You Might Need Both

As a high wage earner, having both group and individual disability insurance policies can be a strategic approach to ensure you’re adequately covered.  Group insurance alone may not fully cover your income, especially if you’re at the higher end of the earnings scale in your profession.  Individual policies can be tailored to cover the gap between your actual earnings and the cap on group policies, ensuring a closer match to your current lifestyle and financial obligations.

Additionally, the sedentary nature of your job means that proving disability might require a nuanced understanding of how your specific abilities are impacted.  Conditions that might not disable someone in a more physically demanding role could critically affect your capacity to perform essential tasks in your field, such as detailed analysis or client communication.  Individual policies often offer definitions of disability that are more suited to these unique professional considerations, including “own occupation” coverage, which provides benefits if you’re unable to perform the duties of your specific job, even if you might be able to work in another capacity.


What Qualifies as a Disability Under Most Insurance Policies?

As an accountant or financial advisor, understanding the nuances of disability insurance and what qualifies as a disability under most policies is crucial to ensuring you have the right coverage.  Disability insurance policies are designed to provide income protection in case you’re unable to work due to illness or injury.  The definitions of disability can vary significantly between policies, but they generally fall into three categories: “own occupation,” “any occupation,” and hybrid definitions.

  • Own Occupation: Under an “own occupation” definition, you’re considered disabled if you’re unable to perform the duties of your specific occupation due to an illness or injury.  This definition is particularly beneficial for professionals like you, as it provides protection even if you’re capable of working in a different capacity or profession.  For instance, if a specific injury prevents you from performing the precise tasks of an accountant or financial advisor, but you could still work in another role, you’d still qualify for benefits under an “own occupation” policy.

  • Any Occupation: The “any occupation” definition is more stringent.  Under this type, you’re only considered disabled if you’re unable to work in any occupation for which you’re qualified by education, training, or experience.  This means that if you’re capable of working in another job role, even if it’s at a lower pay scale or in a different field, you might not qualify for disability benefits.  Policies with an “any occupation” definition are typically less expensive, but they offer narrower coverage.

  • Hybrid Definitions: Many policies incorporate hybrid definitions that start with an “own occupation” definition for a set period (e.g., the first 24 months of disability) and then switch to an “any occupation” definition.  This approach offers a blend of coverage, providing initial protection under the more favorable “own occupation” terms before transitioning to the broader “any occupation” criteria.

Understanding these definitions is key to choosing the right disability insurance for your needs.  As a high-earning professional, it’s also common to have both group policies (provided by your employer) and individual policies to ensure adequate coverage.  Group policies often come at a lower cost or as part of your employment package, but they might not fully cover your income or have the ideal definition of disability.  An individual policy can be tailored to your specific needs, including securing an “own occupation” definition that protects your ability to earn in your highly specialized field.

When selecting disability insurance, consider the nuances of these definitions and how they align with your career and financial goals.  Ensuring you have the right coverage means safeguarding not just your current income, but your future earning potential as well.



How Does the Claims Process Work for Short Term vs. Long Term Disability Benefits?

Understanding the key differences and steps involved for short and long term disability claims is crucial to securing the financial support you need during a difficult time.  Here’s what you need to know about filing for short term versus long term disability benefits.

Short Term Disability Benefits

Short term disability (“STD”) benefits are designed to provide you with income replacement soon after an illness or injury that temporarily prevents you from working.  The process typically involves the following steps:

  • Notification: As soon as you realize you’re unable to work due to a medical condition, notify your employer or insurance provider (depending on how your policy is managed).  Prompt notification is crucial.

  • Documentation: You will need to provide medical documentation from your healthcare provider(s) that outlines your condition, the reason you cannot perform your job duties, and the expected duration of your disability.

  • Claim Form: Fill out the claim form provided by your insurance company.  This usually requires information about your condition, your employment, and your earnings.

  • Employer Verification: Your employer may need to submit a statement verifying your employment, salary, and the last day you worked.

  • Approval Process: Once all documentation is submitted, the insurance company will review your claim to determine eligibility.  This process typically takes a few weeks.

Short term disability benefits often cover a portion of your salary (e.g., 60-70%) and last for a period ranging from a few weeks to a few months, usually not exceeding six months.

Long Term Disability Benefits

long term disability benefits for accountants

Long term disability (“LTD”) benefits kick in after you’ve exhausted your short term disability benefits or after a specified waiting period (often referred to as the elimination period).  

The claims process for LTD benefits is similar but with some key differences:

  • Start Early: If you anticipate needing long term disability benefits, begin the application process well before your short term benefits expire.  The evaluation process for LTD claims can be lengthy.

  • Comprehensive Medical Evidence: For LTD claims, you’ll need detailed medical records that not only establish your current inability to work but also provide evidence that your condition is expected to last for an extended period.

  • In-Depth Claim Form: The claim form for LTD benefits may require more detailed information about your medical condition, treatment plans, and the impact of your condition on your ability to work.

  • Review Process: The review process for LTD benefits is more rigorous, given the longer duration and higher cost of these benefits.  Your insurance company may request additional medical examinations or functional capacity evaluations.

  • Waiting Period: Expect a waiting period (typically 90 to 180 days) before benefits begin.  This period often coincides with the duration of your short term disability benefits, ensuring a seamless transition.

Long term disability benefits can potentially provide a portion of your income (e.g., 50-70%) for up to retirement age or even as a lifetime benefit, depending on the specifics of your policy.


What Medical Conditions Are Commonly Recognized as Disabling for Sedentary Occupations?

Both physical and cognitive conditions can significantly impact your ability to perform the detailed and often stressful work associated with your profession as an accountant or financial advisor.  These include both physical medical conditions and those that cause significant cognitive impairment.

Here’s are some common disabling conditions for individuals in sedentary occupations:

  • Chronic Pain Disorders: Conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic back pain can make it challenging to remain seated for long periods, affecting your ability to work in a sedentary job.

  • Repetitive Stress Injuries (“RSI”s): Carpal tunnel syndrome or other RSIs are common in occupations that require prolonged typing or computer use, leading to significant discomfort and inability to perform job tasks effectively.

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Heart conditions can impact your stamina and endurance, making it difficult to cope with the demands of a full workday, even in a sedentary setting.

  • Visual Impairments: Severe eye conditions that cannot be corrected with standard eyewear or surgery can limit your ability to work with computers or read detailed reports, essential tasks in your field.

  • Mental Health Disorders: Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can severely impact concentration, memory, and the ability to handle the stresses of financial decision-making and advisement.

  • Neurological Disorders: Conditions such as multiple sclerosis (“MS”) or Parkinson’s disease, while also having physical symptoms, can affect cognitive functions, impairing your ability to perform complex calculations or strategic planning.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (“CFS”): This condition can lead to profound levels of tiredness that aren’t alleviated by rest, affecting both physical stamina and cognitive capacities necessary for detailed analytical work.

  • Brain Injuries: Traumatic brain injuries (“TBI”s) or strokes can result in cognitive impairments that affect memory, processing speed, and executive functions, crucial for tasks requiring high levels of accuracy and attention to detail.

Recognizing and acknowledging the impact of both physical and cognitive conditions is essential when considering disability claims in sedentary occupations.  It’s not just the ability to sit at a desk but the capacity to engage in complex, cognitively demanding tasks that defines the ability to work in these professions.


How Can I Document the Impact of My Disability as an Accountant/Financial Advisor?

medical records documentation for accountant disability claim

Documenting the impact of your disability, especially in professions like accounting and financial advising that are predominantly sedentary and require high cognitive function, is crucial for supporting your disability claim.  Here are some general steps you can take to help you effectively document the impact of your disability:

  • Gather Comprehensive Medical Evidence: Begin by compiling all relevant medical documentation that diagnoses and explains your condition.  This includes medical records, doctor’s notes, lab results, imaging studies, and any other diagnostic tests.  It’s essential that these documents not only establish your condition but also detail how it impairs your ability to perform your job functions.

  • Obtain Detailed Statements from Your Healthcare Providers: Ask your doctors, therapists, or specialists to provide detailed statements regarding your condition. Your disability insurance company will ask for at least one attending physician statement. All of the statements of your doctors should specifically describe how your disability affects your daily activities and, more importantly, your capacity to perform your work.  They should address both physical limitations (if any) and cognitive impairments that impact tasks such as concentration, decision-making, and the ability to work under stress.

  • Keep a Symptom Diary: Start maintaining a daily log of your symptoms and how they affect your work-related tasks.  Document instances where your condition prevented you from completing your work effectively or when it significantly slowed you down.  This personal record can provide a real-time insight into the day-to-day impact of your disability on your professional life.

  • Detail Your Job Responsibilities: Clearly outline your job duties and the specific tasks that your disability impacts.  For accountants and financial advisors, this might include analyzing financial documents, managing client portfolios, preparing reports, and advising clients.  Highlight how your condition affects your ability to perform these tasks, focusing on the cognitive aspects if your job is less physically demanding.

  • Get Support from Your Employer: If possible, obtain a statement from your employer or supervisor that corroborates the impact of your disability on your job performance.  This can include observations of decreased productivity, difficulty in completing tasks that were once routine, or increased errors in your work.

  • Include Evidence of Treatment and Adjustments: Provide evidence of any treatments you’re undergoing for your condition and how they affect your ability to work.  Additionally, document any workplace adjustments or accommodations made in an attempt to support your continued employment and how these have not sufficiently mitigated the impact of your disability.

  • Consult with a Long Term Disability Attorney: Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in disability claims, particularly those under ERISA for group benefits or individual disability insurance policies.  They can provide guidance on additional documentation to strengthen your claim and help navigate the claims process.

Effectively documenting the impact of your disability involves a combination of medical evidence, personal records, professional input, and legal advice.  By taking a comprehensive approach to documentation, you can build a strong case to support your disability claim, ensuring that the full scope of your occupational demands as an accountant or financial advisor are fully understood.


What Unique Challenges Do Accountants/Financial Advisors Face When Filing for Disability?

Accountants and financial advisors face a set of unique challenges when filing for disability benefits, primarily due to the nature of their work, which is often considered sedentary but requires high levels of mental acuity and cognitive function.  Understanding these challenges is crucial for effectively navigating the disability claims process. 

Common challenges when filing a short or long term disability claim include:

  • Proving the Impact of Cognitive Impairments: While physical disabilities might be more straightforward to document through medical tests and imaging, cognitive impairments such as those caused by chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, or neurological conditions can be harder to objectively measure and prove.  These impairments can severely affect your ability to perform your job as an accountant or financial advisor, requiring detailed documentation and potentially an in-depth neuropsychological evaluation for more evidentiary support.

  • Misconceptions About Sedentary Work: There’s a common misconception that sedentary work is less demanding and, therefore, easier to perform with a disability.  This overlooks the complex, high-stress, and detail-oriented tasks that accountants and financial advisors undertake, including critical financial analysis, client advisory services, and meticulous preparation of financial documents.  Demonstrating how your disability affects the ability to perform these cognitive tasks is a significant challenge.

  • Navigating “Own Occupation” vs. “Any Occupation” Definitions: Many disability insurance policies initially provide benefits based on the “own occupation” definition of disability, then switch to the “any occupation” definition after a certain period.  For professionals with specialized skills and high earnings, proving that they’re unable to work in any occupation for which they are suited by education, training, or experience can be particularly challenging, especially if their disability mainly affects their ability to perform highly specialized tasks rather than eliminating their capacity to work entirely.

  • Complex Financial Situations: The financial situations of accountants and financial advisors themselves can be intricate, affecting both the process of filing for disability and the calculation of benefits.  For instance, income from various sources, such as bonuses, commissions, or ownership stakes in practices, must be accurately represented and considered when filing a claim.

To successfully navigate these challenges, it’s essential for accountants and financial advisors to meticulously document the impact of their disability on their professional capacity and consult with an attorney experienced in disability claims.  This approach ensures that the unique aspects of their professions and the specific nature of their disabilities are adequately considered throughout the claims process.


How Can The Maddox Firm Help Accountants/Financial Advisors Prove Their Disability Claims?

The Maddox Firm | Long Term Disability & ERISA

At The Maddox Firm, we routinely win short and long term disability claims for professionals, including accountants/financial advisors.  Our expertise is particularly beneficial for professionals in these fields, given the unique challenges they face when filing for disability due to the sedentary yet cognitively demanding nature of their work.

Here are a few ways we can help with your short or long term disability claim:

  • We Examine Your Policy and Assess Your Claim: Our first step is to conduct a thorough review of your disability insurance policy to understand the specific provisions, limitations, and definitions of disability it contains.  We assess your claim’s strength based on the policy terms, ensuring we align your situation with your policy’s criteria for disability.

  • We Handle All Communications with Your Insurance Company: Dealing with insurance companies can be daunting and time-consuming.  We take this burden off your shoulders by managing all communications with the insurance company on your behalf.  This includes submitting the initial claim, responding to requests for additional information, and negotiating with the insurance company to ensure your claim is fairly evaluated, allowing you to focus on your health and well-being.

  • We Help You Obtain Evidence to Support Your Claim: Proving disability for accountants and financial advisors requires substantial evidence, not just of the physical or mental condition but of how it specifically impairs your ability to perform your job functions.  We guide you in obtaining the necessary medical records, expert opinions, and possibly referring you for functional capacity evaluations or neuropsychological assessments to build a compelling case for your claim.

  • We Handle Appeals and Litigation: If your claim is unfairly denied or underpaid, The Maddox Firm is prepared to pursue appeals and, if necessary, litigation.  We are committed to advocating for your rights and securing the benefits you deserve, using our legal expertise to challenge denials and argue your case in court if needed.

The Maddox Firm understands the specific challenges accountants and financial advisors face when securing disability benefits.  Our tailored approach ensures that your claim is handled with the professionalism and dedication it requires, aiming to secure the best possible outcome for you.

A short term disability or long term disability claim can be a complicated process. If you need help during the claims process, with appealing a claim denial, or with litigating a final adverse short term or long term disability decision, The Maddox Firm can help.  The experienced team at The Maddox Firm will examine your insurance policy, correspondence from your insurance company, medical records, and any other relevant documentation in order to give you personalized guidance on how we can help you win your short and/or long term disability claim. Our New Jersey and New York long term disability attorneys help clients nationwide.





bottom of page