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Anxiety Disability Katrina -- CA SDI

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  • Anxiety Disability Katrina -- CA SDI

    I am from New Orleans and Mississippi and am experiencing severe stress, anxiety and depression since Hurricane Katrina. I lost my houses there, and all of my family and friends have lost their homes, and I spent a few weeks down there recently picking through rubble and trying to help people salvage their things. I don't have flood insurance and so am not covered, and the same is true for some of my family and friends, and so my enormous financial loss and the lack of security that I thought I had has been greatly adding to my anxiety.
    I am finding that I am unable to sleep, eat, concentrate at work, etc. I'm having frequent nightmares, panic attacks. I have had problems with stress, anxiety and depression before, but never to this extent.
    I am under treatment and in therapy and on medication for anxiety.
    I do not feel that I am able to continue at work for very much longer because of this problem, although I wish to hang in there for the rest of the year to finish up the projects that I'm on. I want to move back to New Orleans to be near my family and friends, to help them rebuild their homes and lives, and eventually find work there when I'm ready. There is no way that I will be able to endure this anxiety for more than the next few months.
    I want to apply for CA SDI, because this is a covered benefit. My question is: I really like the company that I work for, and I want to stay on good terms with them and maintain my reputation in the field that I work in. I'm embarassed if they have to know that I am applying for SDI and why. They have always had a very high opinion of me and of my work, and would like me to stay on with them for the long-term. They have no idea that I have been suffering from stress, panic and anxiety to this level, and I don't want them to know that I have a mental health disability.
    Is it necessary that I apply for SDI and state the start date of the disability while I am still employed? Or should I quit my job and then apply? Will the state have to contact the employer? What about my right to confidentiality?

  • #2
    I think you need to contact the appropriate State agency and ask them these questions. Your employer may offer a disability income benefit of their own which you're covered by.

    I don't see any need for you to quit your job. Your employer may be perfectly willing to extend a leave of absence to you. (a) If a doctor or psychologist certify that you are medically disabled from working, the company may HAVE to grant you at least 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA, and (b) they may be far more understanding of what you're going through and why than you give them credit for. Members of management are just people too and you won't ever know it but you may be surprised at the issues some of them may be dealing with privately, either for themselves or members of their families. Many individuals experience a period of depression, anxiety, or whatever at some point in their lives and the people you work for are not exempt from that.

    If you want well intentioned advice from a complete stranger, it would be to do the necessary research on whatever disability benefit you may be eligible to file a claim for, consult with your therapist or physician regarding your ability to continue working or not, and then speak to your employer about taking a medical leave of absence.


    • #3
      Ca Sdi

      While I do appreciate the advice, it doesn't really pertain to me. I don't want to take a leave of absence and return to my job; I want to leave CA. The greatest factor exacerbating my anxiety is that I am here and not in La/Miss, and not with my family. Also, I work for a small company and there are no disability benefits available other than SDI. They have already been generous with giving me two weeks leave to return home to be with family, salvage houses, etc.
      Has anyone had experience with CA SDI? I have researched the rules; they are vague. You have to file a claim within so many days of your "disability start date." That's an easy enough date to determine and declare if you lost a limb, but not so easy if it's something like accumulated stress and anxiety months after a traumatic event has occurred. Also, would the state deny my claim just because I wasn't fired? Would they say that I must not be "unable to work" if my company still thought I was doing an okay job?


      • #4
        ca sdi

        You should work with your doctor. The doctor is the party who fills out the certification that you have a eligible medical disability and cannot work before you would be able to qualify for CA SDI benefits. You can download the form here: and also look for more details about the program through the state. I would recommend that you contact them and discuss your specific questions.

        Explicit details of your claim are not shared with your employer, although your employer has a right to know in general terms you have a medical condition and the that you need to be out of work (this is true for FMLA too). If your company has a voluntary plan for disability through a carrier, it is possible that the state will contact this plan to either coordinate benefits or in some cases the voluntary plan is the only provider, the answer to this would be available from your HR dept. So you should really talk to your HR about your benefits.

        You should look into the plan in detail and work with your therapist (who can easily work out the "disability state date" with you). I agree with Beth's advice on this. Frankly, your employer sounds like they were pretty generous to give you time to travel back home due to the crisis.


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