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Winning Disability Benefits for Bipolar Mood Disorder

Posted by
David Brannen
on March 24, 2018
Are the Long-Term Symptoms of Bipolar Mood Disorder Preventing You From Doing Your Job? Do You Need to Win Disability Benefits for Bipolar Mood Disorder?

You may be suffering from the long-term symptoms of bipolar mood disorder, and you may want to learn more about gaining disability benefits to compensate you.

Whether you have already started to apply for long-term disability benefits or are considering beginning the process, you probably already know that winning disability benefits can be an uphill battle and is definitely a process to prepare as meticulously as possible for. Bipolar mood disorder is invisible, so it presents additional challenges when presenting your disability insurance claims. You will need to prepare very diligently to win the benefits you deserve. Winning won’t cure your bipolar mood disorder, but removing the financial burden will help.

As a former occupational therapist and current disability benefits lawyer, I can help you avoid the extra pain of lengthy bureaucratic nightmares in preparing you for the long-term disability benefits application process. If you are suffering from bipolar mood disorder in Canada, I can help you take first steps towards securing the support that you are entitled to. Remember, you’re not alone in dealing with bipolar mood disorder, and you’re not alone in preparing for insurance claims.

This article will highlight reminders during your diagnosis and treatment, types of disability benefits you might qualify for, specific challenges in preparing your claim for bipolar mood disorder, and final thoughts on approaching the overall process and how to face the possible denial of your claims. This article is part of our series looking at medical conditions and disability benefits.


Documenting Your Diagnosis of Bipolar Mood Disorder


A comprehensive strategy to win payment of disability benefits must take into account three key things: your occupation, the specific disability benefits provider, and your medical condition. In the case of your medical condition, gaining a firm diagnosis is step one.

You are suffering from bipolar mood disorder. You know this is a tricky disorder stemming from biological differences, neurotransmitters, or inherited traits.

There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. For each type, the distinct symptoms of bipolar mood disorder can vary. Bipolar I and bipolar II disorders also have additional specific features that can be added to the diagnosis based on your particular signs and symptoms. These symptoms should be well documented as you proceed through the claims process.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists criteria for diagnosing bipolar mood disorder and related disorders. This manual is used by mental health providers as a guide to assist diagnosis of mental conditions and by insurance companies to assess reimbursement for treatment.

Diagnostic criteria for bipolar and related disorders are derived from the specific type of disorder. Here are the main three:

1. Bipolar I disorder. You have experienced at least one manic episode. This episode may have been preceded by or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. Also, your life is interrupted by mania symptoms which may have put you in the hospital or triggered psychosis.

2. Bipolar II disorder. You have experienced at least one major depressive episode that lasted at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode that lasted for a minimum of four days. However, you haven’t ever experienced a manic episode. Distress in your life is caused by major depressive episodes or the unpredictable changes in mood and behavior.

3. Cyclothymic disorder.  You have experienced at least two years (one year for children and teenagers) burdened with periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms. During these periods, you experience symptoms for a minimum of half the time and they don’t disappear for more than two months.

It’s important to remember that bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of bipolar I disorder—it’s a separate diagnosis. The manic episodes in bipolar I can be dangerous and the depressive periods in bipolar II can cause significant impairment. Both diagnoses are viable for disability insurance claims.

If you haven’t received a diagnosis, now is the time to start working toward that. A successful doctor’s diagnosis of bipolar mood disorder is no guarantee your disability claims will also be successful, but it is an important starting point. Be steady and diligent in gaining your diagnosis. The clinical signs of your bipolar mood disorder must be well documented in your medical records as you approach the disability benefits claims process.

It can be very difficult to secure a diagnosis, get acknowledgment from your employer, or understanding from family and friends. But once you are properly diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder, you’ve taken a critical step toward winning your disability benefits. The next step is preparing a successful disability insurance claim. You may have spent a long time fighting and living with bipolar mood disorder. You’ve met with doctors and psychiatrists and taken perhaps many varieties of medication—but now it’s time to get the financial help you deserve.

You could be up against insurance companies willing to confuse your illness to avoid paying the benefits you paid for. Before I share details about insurance claims specifically related to bipolar mood disorders, you should be aware of which disability benefits you qualify for in general.


Determining Which Long-Term Disability Benefits You Qualify For

As a worker, you might be eligible for one of two types of disability benefits in Canada. These are the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits and the long-term disability insurance benefits.


The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits for bipolar mood disorder: 

The CPP, designed to support you after retirement, also covers disability benefits that start once you become disabled and last until you are 65. After that, these disability benefits are converted into regular pensions. In order to be eligible for the CPP disability benefits, you have to have worked for four out of the past six years and paid payroll taxes. The CPP requires you to prove that your disability is both prolonged and severe, leaving you unable to work.

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Long-term disability insurance benefits for bipolar mood disorder:

Group disability insurance policies are the most common type of disability insurances in Canada. If your employer has insured you as part of a group, you are receiving your disability insurance through your job. These group disability insurance policies provide both long-term ad short-term disability benefits. If you are suffering from a bipolar mood disorder, you can apply for the long-term disability benefits if eligible. If successful, these will provide you with monthly income payments during long absences from work to ease the financial pressure weighing you down.

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Preparing to Apply for Long-Term Disability Benefits for Bipolar Mood Disorder

There are specific challenges in preparing your long-term disability benefits claim for bipolar mood disorder.

I’ve already described the steps you should take to gain a firm diagnosis for bipolar mood disorder. Remember, the CPP disability administration will not approve your CPP disability benefits just because a doctor diagnosed you with the condition. If only it were that easy. To win CPP disability benefits for bipolar mood disorder, the true challenge is to prove that your symptoms render you unable to function in any workplace while taking into account your age and work experience.

You will have to present a very well organized application that includes well-documented medical evidence. In addition to comments and descriptions made above, here are the main points to consider for bipolar mood disorder:

  • Be aware that some insurance policies limit mental illness disability claims to two years. So, if you have other disabling conditions (in addition to bipolar mood disorder), it is important to include those in the claim as well.
  • It is critical that you are under the care of a psychiatrist.
  • If recommended by your doctor, is is very important to receive treatment from a psychologist.
  • It is vital that you follow and have followed your doctor’s treatment recommendations completely.
  • Past refusal to take medications will often be grounds for a claim denial unless this action is supported by your psychiatrist in a well-documented treatment plan.


Denied Disability Benefits for Bipolar Mood Disorder? Here’s the Best Way to Respond


You’ve filled out the forms, and you’ve compiled as much evidence as you could—and yet, the letter you get politely denies you the right to disability benefits, effectively forcing you back to work.

This is a tough time, and I know that – I’ve seen it over and over again with my clients, and I've helped them through it. You don’t know what you’ve done wrong, and a rejection can feel like an unjustified slap in the face. Being told your condition doesn’t warrant financial support to give you some space to breathe and focus on your recovery adds humiliation and frustration to the impairment of your disorder.

The good news is that you don’t have to simply accept that your rightful claims have been denied. You can appeal the insurance company's decision instead. I have accumulated years of experience with disability benefits claims, including cases of bipolar mood disorders. It’s unfortunate that insurance companies don’t understand bipolar mood disorders very well or carry unrealistic expectations about recovery from them. But we can help them understand. I know what you are going through, and I’m confident that I can help you. You have a choice. You do not have to let insurance companies get away with denying you the support you are entitled to by law.

Still Feeling Unsure About Your Disability Claim? Sometimes a quick call with us can answer your concerns and help you move forward with confidence. Call us now at 888-732-0470 or click here to request a free consultation. 

Tags: Disabling Medical Conditions

David Brannen
Founder & Managing Lawyer, Resolute Legal
David is a former occupational therapist turned disability lawyer. He is the founder of Resolute Legal and author of A Beginner's Guide to Disability Insurance Claims in Canada and The Beginner's Guide to CPP Disability.