By Hayriye Uluca, Principal Lawyer & State Litigation Leader (VIC) – Superannuation & Insurance

While there is still some way to go, society today is much more comfortable talking about mental health than in the past. People now accept that experiencing a mental health issue is no different to suffering from a physical problem such as asthma, diabetes or a back injury.

Each year approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness, making 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.

If you have had to stop work because of mental health reasons – whether or not the mental condition is related to your employment – you may be able to pursue an insurance claim through your superannuation fund, or through a policy purchased via a broker or directly from an insurer.

Most people don’t realise that they have insurance attached to their superannuation funds. The three main types of insurance offered through your super are:

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

Am I covered for mental health issues?
Yes. If your mental health means you can’t work, then you may have a claim. Some insurers will try to apply harsher terms and conditions on the basis of your mental health, but at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers we know how to close the loopholes that insurers use to try and reject claims.

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.

Case Story – Anna
Anna had lifelong challenges with mental health stemming from childhood, then an abusive relationship and ultimately suffered severe depression. As a result, she was not able to continue working and ceased work as a library worker in 2018.

By 2019, she was at risk of losing her home. The stress of her medical conditions, absence from work and her dire financial situation led her to attempted suicide in 2020.

Anna didn’t know that she could make a claim for total and permanent disablement (TPD) and Income Protection within her super. She thought that her mental health condition needed to be work-related. She discovered she had cover for 2 TPD benefits and Income Protection. After speaking with the union, she was told that the conditions didn’t need to be connected with her work so she made the claims herself but they proved too difficult to navigate alone. The claims were being dragged out by the insurer with piecemeal requests for information which exacerbated her financial and mental stress. The insurer also took issue with her delay in seeing doctors about her depression and asserted that she didn’t become disabled until after she ceased work, meaning she didn’t have a claim.

Anna instructed Maurice Blackburn to take over the claims and after applying pressure for decisions to be made and making written submissions in support of her claim, Anna received over $650,000 in total across all of her claims. She was able to pay off her house, complete necessary renovations on her house but most importantly, she was able to focus on getting better and pay for private psychiatric treatment that she couldn’t otherwise access.

When should I contact you about my super insurance claim?
As soon as possible. 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.

The best thing to do is get in contact with the ASU Union Relationship Organiser Natalie Gonzalez to discuss your options. You can reach Natalie at 0482 166 362 or ngonzalez@mauriceblackburn.com.au

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