Am I eligible for mental health disability benefits due to COVID-19?

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By now we know that the coronavirus can impact the long-term physical health of those who have contracted the virus. But we’re also learning that the pandemic can directly or indirectly cause or contribute to lasting mental health issues too.

Whether you’ve had prior mental health challenges which have been worsened by COVID-19 or you’re suffering from a mental health condition for the first time, you may feel unable to return to work. The question becomes: are you eligible for long-term disability benefits?

COVID Impacts on Mental Health

The pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time for everyone, and has affected some people more than others.

You might be struggling with unemployment or juggling childcare duties while working from home. Healthcare workers have been facing life-and-death scenarios 24/7. Even those who haven’t been directly impacted by COVID may have felt their anxiety levels rise over the past few months.

A recent Business Insider article offered insight into the mental health effects of the coronavirus identified by a number of psychiatrists and researchers. Heightened stress and anxiety among the general population was a common issue. Social distancing is also causing anxiety disorders and depression, they said.

“Events that are threatening, are uncontrollable, and have a lot of uncertainty are really toxic to mental health,” explained Dr. Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one of the experts featured in the article. Dr. Koenen added that those who’ve had a history of mental illness can more easily relapse due to the pandemic, while those already struggling with mental illness face a greater risk of feeling isolated due to the lack of support systems.

What’s more, studies have found that people requiring intensive care due COVID-19 face a greater risk of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

Applying for Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits

Mental health issues can impact you in various ways. It can reduce your motivation or your capacity to focus on your work. It can cause exhaustion, depression and memory loss. It can even induce panic attacks.

If you are suffering from mental health challenges which are making it difficult for you to work, you may be eligible for LTD benefits through your employer’s group disability insurance plan.

Disability insurance provides you with an income (a percentage of your earnings) when you’re not able to perform the duties of your job due to an illness or injury.

Mental health conditions can be considered an illness or injury under many LTD insurance policies. Be sure to read your company policy carefully to ensure your mental health illness falls under its purview.

Common types of mental health conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Bi-Polar Disorder
  • Stress and Burnout

What you need to demonstrate – with the help of a medical professional – is that you’re not able to perform the essential duties of your job due to your medical condition or conditions.

We can help

If you have any questions about COVID-19 and short or long term disability benefits, or if your disability benefits have been denied, contact LTD lawyer Brad Moscato by e-mail at or by phone at 416-646-7655. Brad is the past chair of the LTD Section, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. He is a partner at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP and is dedicated to pursuing the rights of disabled and injured people throughout Ontario.

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