As spectacular as fall can be, for some it’s merely a countdown to winter: short days, long nights, little sunlight, and a lot of cold. Sufferers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are especially dreading the coming months, when difficulty waking up, lack of energy, and dietary symptoms make winter anything but a wonderland.
Obviously these symptoms can affect how we work, and sometimes whether we can work at all. But does that mean you can get disability benefits for seasonal affective disorder?
SAD But True
Despite initial skepticism that SAD was a legitimate condition, it is now listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. In addition, a federal court recently ruled that employees suffering from seasonal affective disorder are entitled to reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
When elementary school teacher Renae Ekstrand began suffering from SAD symptoms, she requested a move from her windowless classroom. Her principal refused, and she sued the school district for failing to make a reasonable accommodation for her disability. A jury found in Ekstrand’s favor, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict. But while employers may need to make accommodations for employees with seasonal affective disorders, that may not mean employees are necessarily entitled to disability benefits.
The Benefits of Being SAD
The Social Security Administration doesn’t list specific disorders that are eligible for disability, but base eligibility for disability benefits is determined by your specific level of impairment and whether the impairment substantially limits obtaining, performing, or keeping a job.
It’s possible that a private disability insurance plan could cover SAD, so you should file a claim with your disability insurer. If you don’t have a private disability policy, you can check to see if you are eligible for Social Security Disability. If you need help filing a disability claim, or if your disability claim has been denied, you may want to talk to an experienced disability attorney.
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