Disability Insurance and Mental Health

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Getting disability insurance for mental illness is possible, but it may require you to add coverage to your policy. Mental illness disability is commonly restricted or limited because of the difficulty associated with proving the illness and its affect on employment. If you are interested in adding disability insurance for mental illness to your policy, you need to know what you will be required to show before you qualify for benefits.

TIP: Because there are several mental illnesses that could affect employment, know what is covered under you disability insurance before committing to a policy. You do not want your mental illness disability insurance to be so limited that it is not helpful.

Mental Illness Disability in Your Policy

Most companies limit disability for mental illness by including exclusions or limitations in the language of the policy. Review the disability policy you are thinking about purchasing and carefully read the section for disability by mental illness. Usually, mental illness disability payments are limited to only 12 to 24 months, and you cannot collect benefits after the specified time period has lapsed. Some disability policies out right exclude disability benefits for some of the aforementioned disorders. READ YOUR POLICY EXCLUSIONS AND LIMITATIONS CAREFULLY!

TIP: You should always know what your disability insurance covers, but it is particularly important for mental illness disability benefits because those are heavily limited.

Proving Mental Illness Disability

To determine the validity of your mental illness disability, an insurance disability claims adjuster will obtain your medical records and request any other medical documentation needed to prove you are unable to work. A physician that specializes in mental illness will have to medically diagnose you as having a mental illness (this includes any forms of mental illness ranging from depression, SAD, paranoia, schizophrenia, etc) that prevents you from doing your own occupation or any occupation. Do not be surprised if the disability insurance company requires you to see a mental illness specialist approved by them before providing you with benefits.

Mental Illness as a Way to Deny Disability Benefits

Even if you are attempting to collect disability benefits for physical injuries, the existence of a mental illness could jeopardize your claim. If you develop a mental illness disability, such as depression, that is secondary to an underlying complication or disease (say brought on by chronic pain), then the depression can be used to limit disability benefits. There have been situations where the insurance company will try to state the individual’s reason for disability is mental illness (depression), thereby limiting the payment under disability benefits for mental illness to only 24 months. It is very important to make sure the insurance carrier does not mischaracterize your disability, which may be a long term physical disability, as a mental illness disability in order to limit benefits.

Preexisting Mental Illness and Disability Benefits

Most disability applications will ask about any prior mental illness diagnosis. Just like any pre existing physical medical condition may preclude you from qualifying for disability insurance policy, so too could any prior mental illness condition.

Some carriers handle this by specifically adding an exclusion for disability for any pre-existing mental illness. If you have had depression since the age of 14, an insurance company could specifically exclude disability benefits for the mental illness of depression. Other insurance company’s could deny you the policy altogether based on you having a pre-existing condition. Normally your medical history and any pre existing diagnosis are verified by obtaining copies of your medical records.

This does not mean that if you have sought counseling a couple of times only to get better self-awareness, it will prevent you from qualifying for a disability policy. Obtaining your medical records will let the underwriter know if counseling was part of treatment for a possible disabling mental illness, your history with the illness and the likelihood that it could recur and lead to a period of disability for mental illness.

Bottom line, make sure you read your disability policy completely and know what your exclusions and limitations are concerning disability due to mental illness. Ask your agent if there are any riders that will extend your benefits under mental illness. If there are, however, you can count on your application being scrutinized by an underwriter a little harder to prevent extending coverage to someone with a predisposition to the illness.

If you would like a quote on disability insurance that can provide you the protection in the event that you develop an illness or disability that prevents you from earning an income, click here to visit the Free Advice quote center today.

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