May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the purpose of this month is to increase the visibility of mental health issues. It also has a goal of reducing the stigma that often surrounds mental illnesses.
For a long time, that stigma influenced employers as well. However, a recent amendment to ERISA changed that.
There is no doubt that employees with mental illnesses should have the same benefits as any other employee with a disability or illness. Mental illnesses always have a range of severity, but they can impact someone’s ability to work as much as any physical condition.
Obtaining benefits for a mental illness can still be a challenge.
It is difficult to recover benefits for a mental illness, even though the MHPAEA increased employer insurance coverage. There are two main reasons for this challenge:
There are many different symptoms: The same mental illnesses manifest in various ways for different people. One person’s anxiety may look different from another’s. So, many long term disability insurers deny that someone’s mental illness renders them unable to work
There is still an emphasis on physical illnesses: Recovering benefits solely for a mental illness is still tough. It is much more likely for disability insurers to cover a mental illness if it accompanies or worsens a physical illness or disability.
The stigma around mental illness may persist today. However, that should not impact person’s right to obtain the ERISA long term disability benefits they deserve. Hopefully, this month’s dedication to raising awareness can help reduce the challenges that these claimant’s face.