Monday, February 1, 2016

The "Mental Illness Limitation Clause" in Long Term Disability Policies

If you are covered by a long term disability policy, it is very likely that your policy contains a limitation as to how long you can be paid benefits when your disability is caused by mental illness. Most disability insurance policies contain a standard provision that states that if your disability is caused by a mental health problem, the maximum period for which you can receive LTD benefits is 24 months.  However, the length of the limitation for mental illness might vary depending on the language on your particular policy.
It is extremely important to check your long term disability policy to determine the exact term of the limitations for mental illness.  In some rare cases, policies don't contain any limitations for disability claims based on mental health. 
Generally, limitations for claims based on mental illness have been held to be legal.   In my opinion, clauses limiting the payment of disability benefits for mental illness are extremely unfair. Moreover, such actions by insurance companies show a clear bias against persons who suffer from mental disabilities.  A mental health condition can be just as disabling as a physical one.  About a year ago, I participated in a disability law conference where a guest speaker, who was a psychiatrist, explained that science now believes that most mental health problems have a psychical cause inside a persons's brain and that it is erroneous to think that mental illness is caused by environmental or emotional factors.
One legal issue that comes up very frequently is whether the cause of a person's disability is a mental health condition or a physical illness. Take for example the case of someone who has suffered a stroke.  Many times stroke victims suffer from symptoms that go beyond physical limitations.  For example, after a stroke some patients suffer from severe depression symptoms.  Such cases are generally decided on a case by case basis. The determination as to whether the mental health exclusion applies or not depends on the exact language used in the policy as well as the specific facts of the case.  For example, if the language of the mental health limitation clause is expressed in very general terms and the claimant never had a history of depression before the stroke, it is possible that the person might have a good argument against the application of any limitations due to mental health.
If you are currently receiving disability benefits or have recently applied an you suffer from mental and physical health limitations, it is good idea to consult with a long term disability lawyer.  A lawyer can determine whether any limitations for payment will apply.  Moreover, an attorney can assist you in developing a claim strategy that makes it difficult for the insurance company to limit your disability benefit payments to 24 months or less.