Leave of Absence / Short-term Disability Insurance for Depression?
June 13, 2013 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I've always been prone to depression as a result of my dysthymia and due to recent traumatic events, I've slumped into depression again. My work productivity and quality suffered as a result and I ended up breaking down to my manager, sobbing my eyes out and explaining my situation. I was even developing suicidal ideations and at this point, I've taken a little over a week off of work. In the mean time, I've seen a doctor, a psychiatrist, and a therapist for my depression and I've been prescribed Pristiq. Now, my question is in regards to requesting a leave of absence for my depression

My psychiatrist filled out my LoA form stating that I will not be able to work for 2-3 months and one of my employer-sponsored benefits is short-term disability insurance through Cigna. I was feeling optimistic that I would be able to focus on getting better and not have to worry about a loss of income, but I've been reading up on straight-up horror stories about people getting denied for disability insurance for medical conditions that are far more severe than mine, typically manifested in physical ailments, and not mental disorders. So now I'm concerned that Cigna will simply deny my claim because of the stigma that "it's only depression," and I'm worried about the potential loss of income. Apparently, depression is also one of the most commonly-cited ailments for people filing for disability insurance.. so that can't bode well for me. Does anyone have any experience with this? What can I do to boost my 'odds,' so to speak, of getting approved (I feel disgusted saying that, honestly...)?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you? When I volunteered with the Legal Aid Society, one of the major things they did was help people navigate disability claims, including helping them with their first submission and assisting in appeals if they were denied. They are often either entirely free or sliding-scale for services. You might look up your local organization, Google "legal aid + [your county or city]".
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2013

Make sure you are not confusing governmental disability with your employer's insurance company's short term disability benefit. Normally if a doctor signs off on it, you should be okay. Call Cigna to verify this.

Also, find out from HR what your pay will be like during this time. Many times you get say, 2/3 to 3/4 of your normal salary, and, you may be responsible for increased insurance premiums during that period (or they may be billed separately to you at home instead of being taken out of your pay check, because disability payments are different than payroll paychecks).

Just get all that info first before you freak out, so you can set your mind at ease and concentrate on getting well.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2013

As Marie Mon Dieu said, there's a huge difference between government disability and employee disability. I was able to get six months of leave because of depression with absolutely no trouble through my short-term disability insurance through work. The only problem I had is that they overpaid me, and I had to cough up about $1500 when I went back to work, so you might want to keep an eye on your paycheck.

My pay was only 60% of normal, and the checks came to my home instead of direct deposit through work. I also had to answer several questions over the phone with someone from the insurance company, but there was no doubt that I was too depressed to function, and that came through in my answers. But because of the paperwork-processing time and the interviews, it took a few months before I got my first check. So you might want to budget for that.

Good luck. Taking time off really helped me.
posted by Lectrolamb at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing the distinction. They might hassle you, I'll admit. I've had disability claims with my employee disability insurer that were very much physical and at one point I had a case manager calling me a few times per week to check in ("No, I don't think I'm ready to go back to work yet." "Why is that?" "Well I had my rectum surgically removed a week ago." this really happened) -- BUT they followed up with my doctor's office and as long as my doctor's office returned their faxes, it ultimately worked out okay.

This will be an exercise in bureaucracy, which is unfortunate because I imagine that is something you are not well positioned to deal with if you need a leave of absence to work through depression, but if you can prioritize returning the phone calls and hassling your doctor's office staff when necessary, I believe you'll be fine.
posted by telegraph at 11:02 AM on June 13, 2013

Hi - I work for a disability insurance carrier. Not Cigna, but another of the major carriers.

You can definitely get STD payments while you're unable to work due to depression. You will want to talk to your HR staff to see how to start the ball rolling. Typically HR will need to complete a form (who are you, how much do you make, when did you stop working) and so will you. Then your doctor will complete a form. It's pretty straightforward and I can tell you that at my company most claims are decided within 3 days of receipt of all paperwork.

How much you will get paid and for how long depend on the specifics of your plan.

Don't stress about what you hear about people having a hard time getting approved for disability payments for depression. That's usually for SSI, a federal program, and since one could potentially receive payments for decades under that program, the guidelines are much more restrictive. STD will usually pay for 6 months or less, so it's not under the same kind of scrutiny.

Best of luck to you. This benefit is provided to you as part of your total compensation and you're absolutely entitled to use it. Feel fee to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by Coffeemate at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The answer will depend on the terms of your employer's short term disability plan. There's no legal requirement for employers to even offer disability benefits, so there's a lot of latitude in the types of benefits they provide. However, I think it's safe to say that most STD plans simply provide that as long as the employee is medically certified unable to work, for whatever reason, they're entitled to benefits. Mental disabilities are generally afforded the same protection as physical disabilities (as long as there is medical substantiation).
posted by pardonyou? at 12:22 PM on June 13, 2013

I agree with Coffeemate, above. I also work for a disability insurance carrier (not Cigna, and I don't know if Coffeemate and I work for the same carrier, but probably not). Short Term Disability benefits are, in general, pretty easy to get. As long as your doctor supports your claim and responds regularly to the carrier's request for updates, you should continue to get benefits.

Add me to the list of knowledgeable disability insurance wonks you can MeMail for help and/or moral support.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 10:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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