Can you claim long-term disability if you’re afraid to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The province will now be offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to immunocompromised Manitobans, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine task force, announced Wednesday. Getty Images

COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions of Canadians. But vaccine hesitancy continues to be a concern amid the fourth wave of the pandemic, which is primarily affecting unvaccinated Canadians.

READ MORE: What to know about your long-term disability rights in the age of COVID-19

What if the driving force behind people’s refusal to get vaccinated is fear? Hesitancy is often driven by fear, as are anxiety, depression and many other recognized disabling psychological conditions, which are often debilitating for sufferers.

With an increasing number of workplaces in Canada mandating vaccinations, I’ve spoken to some individuals who feel scared and angry at being compelled to be vaccinated. Rightly or wrongly, many of them are searching for ways to avoid being forced to vaccinate in order to keep their jobs.

The issues many employees are dealing with in relation to mandatory vaccines are not only rooted in employment law, but also in disability law. What if employees do not have a religious objection to the vaccine or a medical condition that would exempt them, but rather an intense fear that is debilitating and disabling? What will happen to them?

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Based on my experience as a disability lawyer, if you suffer from a psychological condition such as severe anxiety or depression as it relates to workplace vaccine mandates, and it causes you to become disabled from working, you may be entitled to short-term or long-term disability.

READ MORE: 4 reasons long-term disability claims are rejected, and how to fight back

Under most short-term and long-term disability plans, the primary criteria for receiving disability payments is that the employee is disabled from working due to a disabling condition or set of conditions.

The disability can be physical, psychological or a mix of both. Anxiety, depression, phobias and other psychological conditions that disable an employee from working should qualify the individual for short-term and/or long-term disability.

Payments for disability vary from plan to plan, but generally short-term disability pays 80 to 100 per cent of a person’s pre-disability income, and long-term disability pays 60 to 70 per cent of a person’s pre-disability income.

How to apply for short-term and/or long-term disability

In order to apply for short-term or long-term disability, you need medical support. First, confer with your family doctor about your disabling condition, whether it’s severe anxiety, depression or a phobia, and ask for their help with your disability application.

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Your doctor may need to refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist for an assessment and possibly treatment for your disabling condition.

Second, if you have a private disability policy, contact your insurer and request an application for disability. If you have short-term and/or long-term disability benefits through your workplace, tell your human resources representative that you will be applying for disability. I tell clients to fill out the application truthfully, honestly and fully, and to not misrepresent their conditions in any way.

Third, make sure your doctor supports your being off work due to your disabling condition. If they are supportive, they will need to provide their opinion in writing for your disability application.

What should you do if you are denied disability by the insurance company?

If your application is denied for any reason, contact a disability lawyer as soon as possible.

I anticipate that some insurers will reject disability applications based on anxiety, depression and phobias related to vaccine mandates; however, insurers can’t deny legitimate disability claims simply because they do not agree with your beliefs.

Ultimately, if you are disabled from working due to a psychological condition, what caused your disability is not as important as the fact that you are, in fact, disabled from working. You should be eligible to receive disability payments.

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READ MORE: Long-term disability claim denied? This is why you need a disability lawyer

At Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, our lawyers in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta resolve disability claims with insurers regularly. We provide peace of mind and fight for our clients’ rights, and most importantly, we ensure that clients get paid what they are owed under their disability policies.

Our law firm, Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, has been at the forefront of public education about employees’ legal rights for years.

If you have questions about vaccine mandates and your rights, visit the website we created with answers about employment law, disability law and the pandemic.

Has your long-term disability claim been denied due to the nature of your condition?

Contact the firm or call 1-855-821-5900 to secure assistance from a long-term disability lawyer in Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia. Get the advice you need — and the compensation you deserve — from the most positively reviewed disability law firm in the country.

Sivan Tumarkin is a disability lawyer and partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, one of Canada’s leading law firms specializing in employment law and disability claims. He provides free advice as a host of Canada’s only Disability Law Show on TV and radio.


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