Mental Disabilities & Stress

You are entitled to receive accidental disability retirement benefits in Massachusetts if your are permanently unable to perform the essential duties of your job if you sustained either a physical or mental disability. The mental disability must have been sustained while in the performance of your duties. It is possible to receive an accidental disability retirement due to stress or other mental or emotional disabilities. However, you must demonstrate that the source of the disability is “an identifiable condition … that is not common and necessary to all or a great many occupations.” Thus, it is not enough to show that the disabling stress is work related. You must also prove that “an identifiable condition … that is not common and necessary to all or a great many occupations” is the source of your disability.

Many jobs are mentally taxing and “stressful.” Thus, you must show that your mental or emotional disability was the result of something peculiar in your work that would distinguish your occupation from a wide variety of others, where employees face similar pressures and stressors in the workplace.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can form the basis for an accidental disability retirement award where an employee is exposed to traumatic events or experiences in connection with his or her employment.

A mental disability which arises out of a legitimate personnel action such as a termination, demotion, or transfer cannot be the basis of a mental disability retirement claim.  However, extreme workplace harassment may form the basis of a mental disability claim. In order to qualify, the harassment must rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional harm and the work atmosphere must have been unbearable and not like working environments that are common to many workers in various occupations. Routine job conflicts and arguments with co-workers and supervisors, do not rise to that level.

Due to the lack of objective physical evidence, disability retirements based on stress or mental issues can be difficult to obtain. Contact a lawyer for more information.