Chronic illness during the COVID-19 pandemic? Know your rights

According to research, just under half of all Australians will experience a chronic condition at some point in their lives. They are the leading cause of death, disability and illness and account for over a third of all hospitalisations.

During COVID-19, many people with chronic illnesses unrelated to the pandemic are finding themselves unable to maintain employment or return to work in an environment of rising unemployment.

Combined with decreasing independence, losing a job can cause significant emotional and financial stress. This is what happened to our client, Robert.

Read more about his story and how getting a TPD payout through his superannuation insurance changed his life.

If you have been made redundant due to COVID-19 and are unable to return to work due to your chronic illness, you can quickly and easily find out now what super insurance you're entitled to with our free super claim check.

An invisible illness

Robert was a proud builder who loved his job. When he started dropping his tools on a regular basis, it seemed strange. Then he started losing his balance and slurring his speech.

After Robert's mum Heather became aware of her son’s changes, she took him to a neurologist who diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dealing with the diagnosis and learning to manage the symptoms of such a puzzling disease was challenging enough for Robert and Heather, but they now also faced the added pressure of how to cope financially.

Over a period of two years, Heather contacted Robert’s three super funds about his account balances without realising he was entitled to TPD insurance. Each one of the insurers failed to notify Heather of Rob’s insurance entitlements.

What is TPD insurance?

Total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance is a default cover provided through most superannuation funds. It’s designed to provide people with a safety net if they cannot work for any medical reason.

Unfortunately, many people with chronic conditions are unaware that they even have it or that they’re entitled to access it should they stop working.

Insurers may try and tell people with chronic illnesses that they are not eligible for cover – but this is not necessarily true. If your condition didn’t affect your ability to work when you first opened your super account, then you should be able to make a claim.

Is accessing TPD insurance complicated?

As with any insurance policy, getting a payout from your super fund can be complicated.

Each super fund has different criteria and uses different loopholes to avoid paying claims. Our team know the specifics of each policy’s criteria for disability claims and can maximise your entitlements.

We keep a close eye over the entire process, seeking additional evidence where necessary and pressuring the insurer when they drop the ball.

If you’ve already started the process, and your claim has been denied by your super fund, please talk to us. We can assess your entitlements for free.

Beware the loss of your insurance cover

Disability insurance cover can cease if your super account becomes inactive because contributions cease. 

It will also cease if your account balance is completely drained, as occurred recently for over half a million Australians who accessed their super through the Government's COVID-19 early access program. That will mean you won’t be eligible to claim for a disability benefit if you have to cease work after cover ended. 

With job uncertainty in our current economic crisis due to COVID-19, it’s important to get advice before accessing your superannuation account balance to ensure you are not losing valuable insurance cover that you may need.

Getting Robert his entitlements

When Robert’s mum reached out to Maurice Blackburn, we quickly found that Robert was entitled to a TPD benefit from all three of his super funds.

With us taking care of the legal paperwork, Heather was able to throw herself into managing Robert’s condition.

Robert received a lump sum payout that went towards, among other things, making his home wheelchair-friendly, dramatically improving his quality of life.

Chronic illnesses under super

Over the years, we’ve helped clients access a TPD insurance payout for auto-immune and mental health conditions, including:

  • Alzheimer’s & dementia
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Mental health conditions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s

Get legal advice early

You should seek legal advice as soon as you are diagnosed, or when you stop work – whichever happens first.

We’ll be able to help guide you through the process. This way, we’ll handle the paperwork while you focus on managing your condition. Don’t let the stress of tackling a TPD claim on your own take a toll on your health.

If you or someone you know has been injured or diagnosed with an illness and is worried about getting back to 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, ...

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