Mental health and disability insurance: Understanding your rights

Whilst we still have a long way to go, people are becoming more open about discussing mental health issues. Stress, depression and anxiety are no longer as taboo as before and a more mature conversation is developing.

In fact, each year approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. That makes mental illnesses the third leading cause of disability in Australia. Last year, insurers paid out more than $750 million in disability claims due to mental health conditions.

With the recent rise of COVID-19, we know more people will be facing significant stress – whether it’s financial pressures, having to home-school children or simply being contained at home – and it’s important to understand there is help available.

If you’ve had to stop work because of your mental health, you may have insurance available through your superannuation. We talk through what this means for you and how you can find out your entitlements.

What is superannuation insurance?

If you’ve had to stop work for any medical reason, you may have a claim for insurance under your superannuation fund.

Most people don’t realise that attached to your super is default insurance. You receive cover simply by being a member of a default super fund, called a MySuper product. This type of insurance isn't underwritten in the same way as direct insurance policies. It can even cover claims for conditions that existed before you joined the super fund.

The three main types of insurance offered through your superannuation are:

  • Income protection
  • Total and permanent disability (TPD)
  • Terminal illness/death cover

Put simply: if your mental health means you can’t work, then you may have a claim. We know that this period is stressful enough, particularly through COVID-19, so our team will handle the paperwork to maximise your entitlements.

Is this available for all mental health conditions?

Yes.

Some insurers will try to discriminate against you on the basis of your mental health. Our belief is that mental health conditions are serious and can really impact your quality of life. We know how to close loopholes that insurers may use to try and reject your claim.

We’ve successfully represented clients with a range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Schizophrenia & other psychotic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Developmental disorders, such as autism
  • Degenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s & dementia

What if my illness progresses over time?

The nature of mental illness is that it can change over time. This shouldn’t affect your ability to access your superannuation insurance. Our team can investigate this for you.

For example, we represented a client who experienced depression during a divorce in his 20s. He made the choice to see a psychologist and take antidepressants. When he later applied directly to an insurer (not his super fund) for disability insurance, the company rejected his application because of his prior mental health issues.

Later, he witnessed a nasty accident in his workplace and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that caused him to stop work. We investigated his super insurance entitlements and discovered he was eligible to claim a TPD lump sum of $100,000. We helped him make a successful claim which allowed him to pay off his mortgage and keep his home.

When should I contact you about my super insurance claim?

As soon as possible. We know that seeking help can be tough, but the benefits can change your life.

Although finding out whether you have insurance through your super is relatively simple, working out what sort of insurance it is, what circumstances you’re covered for, and how the insurance relates to your circumstances can be much more complex.

Call us for a free super claim check now and one of our expert lawyers will assess your eligibility. At Maurice Blackburn, your first consultation* is free.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a mental illness and is worried about work, simply get in touch online or call us on 1800 196 050. 

RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Superannuation claims

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Josh Mennen

Maurice Blackburn Brisbane

Josh Mennen is a Principal Lawyer in the Superannuation and Insurance practice in Maurice Blackburn's Brisbane office. He regularly visits Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide

He has practiced predominantly across superannuation, insurance, financial advice and consumer credit disputes.

Admitted to practice in 2007, Josh has helped hundreds of people access justice. With an extensive knowledge of the legal process he has been responsible for law-changing, leading cases in a range of State and Federal jurisdictions. 

He is a prominent commentator on policy reform, ha…

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