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Mental Health

Unemployment Drives Mental Health Disability Claims During COVID

— April 30, 2021

Remember, you must be organized and present your claim comprehensively in order to receive mental health disability benefits, and a qualified lawyer can help.

Attorneys who represent insureds in short- and long-term disability insurance claim denials have seen how the economic nosedive caused by the COVID pandemic has impacted the mental wellness of many hard-working professionals.

In addition to the physical and emotional trauma claiming more than 2.6 million lives worldwide, the pandemic destroyed companies and entire business sectors. Professions that relied on in-person engagement were upended by a virus that we could not see or hear.

Imagine having an occupation you loved in January 2020, only to have it wiped out or devastated by spring. No opportunity to earn money doing what you love can certainly throw your life off-balance. Shock was experienced by millions, in every field of practice. It was very foreseeable for a professional, or their spouse, to suffer severe psychological trauma if they had to shutter their business, lay off their employees, or constantly worry about where or how their next paycheck would arrive.

One year after the pandemic seeped into every corner of the United States, data, research and studies provide insight into the connection between unemployment, mental health challenges, and related individual and group disability claims. We will explore this new information and provide tips that can help when assessing when and how to file for short- and long-term disability claims due to mental illness.

A Brief Look at Economic Statistics

A glimpse at national and state unemployment numbers sets the table to begin the dialogue about the pandemic’s toll on America’s mental health.

From November 2019 to November 2020, total non-farm jobs in the U.S. decreased by 9,185,000 or 6.1%. California’s Economic Development Department (EDD) released its year-over-year employment report and its numbers mirrored that of the U.S. – noting an overall non-farm job loss of 1,336,700, or a 7.6% statewide decrease.

More than 1.25 million Californians were let go by their employers between November 2019 and 2020 from the following seven sectors:

  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Trade transportation and utilities
  • Professional and business services
  • Education and health services
  • Manufacturing
  • Government
  • Other services, such as hairdressers, plumbers and custodial workers.

You probably know an affected relative, friend or colleague who earned their living in one of these fields. It is easy to imagine the thousands of government workers, hotel staff, travel agents, events specialists, airline workers and teachers whose positions were not sustainable during a year-long period of isolation. Each person lost their income, health benefits, and likely suffered a career setback, along with a devastating blow to their savings.

There have been various accounts and credible theories exploring how the stress of sudden displacement and financial doom may have ignited or exacerbated mental disability diagnoses. Related reports of severe depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental illnesses also prevented many people from maintaining gainful employment. If that description of mental distress and emotional trauma resonates with you, it is critical to file a disability claim with your insurance carrier.

Understanding Mental Health and Short-/Long-Term Disability 

Short- and long-term disability policies generally cover total and partial disability claims for illnesses. However, making a bulletproof mental nervous disability claim can be complex and often overwhelming.

Be very careful to meet all your policy proof of loss time frames when making a claim for benefits. Proper, thorough, and complete documentation, including doctor visits and more, are all required to meet your policy’s requirement that you receive the most appropriate care for the conditions causing your disability.

State Reps Ask for Mental Health Funds to Address the Crisis
Photo by Fernando Cferdo on Unsplash

Document the frequency and intensity of therapy or psychiatry appointments and your prescribed mental nervous psychotropic medications, along with all of your side effects from the medication. You are probably already keeping a list for your doctor that you can use for your disability insurance claims, which should also include a comprehensive summary of:

  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Decreased focus and sustained concentration
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Lack of enjoyment and loss of appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts, overwhelming sadness, and similar symptoms of mental illness

Even when claims are made according to the insurance company’s disability guidelines, the process is tricky and there may be no guarantee your claim will be accepted. Many are rejected, which triggers more heartache, disappointment, and financial problems compounded by a complex appeals process. For mental health issues, insurance companies may make the insured jump through various hoops with frequent delays and multiple denials. The carrier knows you are weak and will try to beat you up when you’re already down, and to essentially starve you and your family into submission.

Tips For Seeking Representation

With the volume of mental health disability filings skyrocketing, it is in claimants’ best interest to hire a terrific lawyer to fight for short or long-term disability benefits payments. Follow these tips to find the right disability lawyer:

Tip 1: Confirm that your lawyer exclusively litigates individual and/or group disability, insurance and ERISA claims. A general practitioner or even an injury specialist will not have adequate knowledge or sufficient experience. There are too many intricacies that non-specialized lawyers do not know that, if missed, could negatively impact or sink your claim.

Tip 2: Assess your potential lawyer and how the firm is staffed. Review the lawyer’s credentials and ask if there is direct communication to medical, financial, and occupational help either on-staff or as consultants.

Tip 3: Ask if the lawyer is willing to review your claim file or administrative record for free, no matter how large? If you are going to hire a lawyer, ask to see a “sample contract,” which spells out—in clear and simple language—the terms and fee structure, what will be charged and for how long.

Experts will be studying the correlation between COVID and mental health for years to come. Unemployment rates and reduced finances will undoubtedly influence the impact of disability filings. If just a fraction of the million-plus unemployed Californians file for COVID-related disability benefits, insurance companies will continue to be jammed with thousands of claims for years.

Remember, you must be organized and present your claim comprehensively in order to receive mental health disability benefits, and a qualified lawyer can help.

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