September 5


Get the Green Light: How to Get Short-Term Disability Approved for Mental Health

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

If you’re struggling with a mental health condition impacting your ability to work, you may be eligible for short-term disability benefits. However, getting approved for mental health-related short-term disability can be challenging.

To help you navigate this process, we’ve compiled a guide covering everything you need to know to get approved.

First, understand what it is and how it works. Short-term disability is insurance that provides income replacement if you cannot work due to an illness or injury.

Typically, it covers a portion of your income for a limited period, usually up to 26 weeks. While it is often associated with physical injuries or illnesses, it can also cover psychological conditions that impact your ability to work.

However, mental health-related short-term disability claims are often more complicated than physical injury claims and require specific documentation and diagnosis.

Key Takeaways

  • Short-term disability can cover mental health conditions that impact your ability to work.
  • This type of claim requires specific documentation and diagnosis.
  • Navigating the process for psychological health can be challenging, but it’s possible with the right information and support.

Understanding Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability is a type of insurance policy that can provide financial support to individuals who cannot work due to a disability. This type of insurance typically covers disabilities that last a short period, usually up to six months. Its insurance is often included in an employer’s benefits package but can also be purchased individually.

To qualify, you must meet specific criteria outlined in your plan document. This may include providing medical documentation of your disability and showing that you cannot perform the essential functions of your job. The insurance company will review your claim and determine whether you are eligible for benefits.

Not all disabilities are covered under the insurance. Depression and anxiety may be covered if they prevent you from working. Still, the insurance company will typically require medical documentation and may require ongoing treatment.

If your claim is approved, you will typically receive a percentage of your regular income for a specified period. The amount and duration of benefits will vary depending on your insurance policy and the terms outlined in your plan document.

Eligibility for Short-Term Disability

First and foremost, you must have a condition that interferes with your ability to work. This can include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.

Your work history and income are also factors in determining eligibility. You must have worked for some time and earned a minimum amount of income to qualify for benefits. The specific requirements vary depending on your employer and the state you live in.

If a work-related injury or illness caused your condition, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits instead. Discussing your options with your employer and a qualified attorney is critical.

Suppose you need time off work for your condition. In that case, you may also be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws provide job protection and reasonable accommodations for employees with such conditions.


Mental Health Conditions and Short-Term Disability

The benefits can provide financial assistance while you take time off to focus on your psychological health.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, postpartum depression, or OCD, you may be eligible for benefits. However, understand the requirements and limitations of your policy before applying.

To qualify, you must provide medical documentation. This documentation should include a licensed professional diagnosis and a treatment plan outlining your expected recovery time.

These benefits typically only cover a portion of your income and have a maximum benefit period. Therefore, have a financial plan to cover any additional expenses you may have during your time off work.

Diagnosis and Documentation

A diagnosis is a medical condition identifying an illness or injury based on symptoms and clinical findings. Mental illnesses such as clinical depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and self-harm are often challenging to diagnose, and documentation is critical to support the diagnosis.

Documentation should include medical records, treatment plans, and professional progress notes. It should also have any medications prescribed and any adverse effects or changes in symptoms. Proper documentation helps insurance companies understand the severity of the condition and the need for short-term disability.

When seeking a diagnosis, find a professional specializing in the specific illness or injury. They can provide a thorough evaluation and diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Be honest and open about symptoms and concerns during the evaluation process.

Applying for Short-Term Disability

The first step is to contact your employer’s human resources department to obtain the necessary forms and information regarding your employer’s disability policy.

Once you have the forms, fill them out completely and accurately, including all medical documentation related to your condition. Be sure to include any relevant information about your treatment plan, including medications, therapy, and any other treatments your healthcare provider prescribes.

Understand the role of the claims administrator in the process. The claims administrator is responsible for reviewing your claim and determining whether or not you are eligible for benefits. Be sure to provide all necessary information and documentation to the claims administrator on time to ensure the approval process is completed on time.

If denied, you may be eligible for social security disability or supplemental security income (SSI). Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) as soon as possible to begin the application process. Be sure to provide all necessary documentation and information to the SSA to ensure your claim is processed as quickly as possible.

Financial Aspects of Short-Term Disability

Understand the benefits you may be entitled to. Your employer or insurance provider typically pays out benefits and can cover a percentage of your salary for a set period.

Disability benefits are taxable, so consider setting aside some benefit payments to cover any tax liabilities. You may also be eligible for financial assistance programs to help cover medical bills and other expenses related to your treatment.

When applying, carefully review the terms of your policy and understand any premium payments required to maintain coverage. You may also want to consider speaking with a financial advisor or accountant to help you navigate the financial aspects of your disability claim.


Managing Mental Health During Disability

Here are some tips to help you manage your mental health during your disability period:


A therapist can provide the tools and support you need to cope with your disability and improve your mental health.


If you take medication, continue taking it as prescribed during your disability period. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about your medication.


Recovery is a process, and it takes time. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. Focus on taking care of yourself and your mental health.


Take care of your overall wellness by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity when possible. These habits can help improve your mental health and well-being.


If you feel hopeless or overwhelmed, contact a trusted friend or family member for support. You can also consider joining a support group or speaking with a professional.


Stay motivated by setting small goals and celebrating when you achieve them. Every step forward is progress.


If you are experiencing fatigue, make sure to rest and take breaks when you need them. It’s vital to listen to your body and prioritize your health.


If you are having trouble focusing, try breaking tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps. You can also use a planner or to-do list to help you stay organized.


If you experience a panic attack, try deep breathing exercises or grounding techniques to help calm yourself down. Panic attacks are temporary and will pass.

Rights and Protections

Discrimination against individuals with mental health conditions is prohibited by law, and you have the right to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

Prioritizing self-care, seeking treatment, and taking time off work to focus on your mental health can help improve productivity and energy levels in the long run.

While alcohol and substance abuse can exacerbate them, short-term disability can still be approved for individuals struggling. Seeking treatment and support for substance abuse can improve your chances of getting approved.

You have the right to privacy regarding your condition. Your employer cannot disclose your illness to others without your consent. You can file a complaint if you feel your rights have been violated.

State-Specific Provisions

When it comes to short-term disability claims for mental health, each state has its provisions.

In New York, for example, the benefits can be paid for up to 26 weeks, while in California, the maximum benefit period is 52 weeks.

Rhode Island and Washington also have their specific requirements. In Rhode Island, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 30 days before becoming eligible for benefits, while in Washington, the employee must have worked for at least 680 hours in the base year.

These claims are subject to the same eligibility requirements as any other  claim. This means that the employee must have a qualifying medical condition that prevents them from working and must have earned enough wages to be eligible for benefits.

Transitioning to Long-Term Disability


Long-term disability insurance can provide financial support for an extended period, typically until you reach Social Security’s normal retirement age or until your condition improves.

Pre-existing conditions may impact your ability to receive long-term disability benefits. If it was present before you enrolled in the insurance policy, you may have to wait an extended period before your benefits kick in.

When transitioning to long-term disability, understand the terms and conditions of your policy. Some policies may require you to exhaust all other benefits before receiving long-term disability payments.

The extended period for long-term disability benefits varies depending on the policy. Some policies may provide benefits for up to two years, while others may offer longer ones.


In conclusion, getting short-term disability approved for mental health can be challenging, but it is possible. Providing thorough documentation and working closely with your healthcare provider can increase your chances of approval. They are just as valid as physical health conditions and should be treated as such.

When applying, provide as much information as possible about your condition, including any diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment plans. This will help the insurance company better understand your situation and make a more informed decision.

Seek support from friends, family, and professionals during this time. Dealing with this can be overwhelming, and having a solid support system can make all the difference.

Getting approved for mental health is not a sign of weakness. It is a necessary step in taking care of yourself and your psychological state. So, reach out for help and support when you need it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can short-term disability be denied for mental health?

Yes, it can be denied for mental health. However, mental health conditions are recognized as legitimate reasons for taking time off work, and many people with mental illness have successfully received benefits.

Can a therapist fill out short-term disability paperwork?

Yes. However, the insurance company may require additional documentation from a psychiatrist or professional to verify the diagnosis and treatment plan.

Short-term disability qualifying conditions?

Qualifying conditions vary depending on the insurance policy. However, most policies cover mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How to get short-term disability for stress?

You must provide professional documentation verifying your diagnosis and treatment plan. You will also need to provide employer documentation showing you cannot work due to your condition.

What happens if I can’t work due to mental illness?

You may be eligible for benefits. These benefits can provide financial support while you receive treatment and recover from your condition. However, they are usually only available for a limited period.

Does anxiety and depression qualify for disability?

Anxiety and depression can qualify for disability if severe enough to prevent you from working. To be eligible for disability benefits, you must provide documentation from a specialist that verifies your diagnosis and treatment plan.

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