What Is Long COVID and Can I Get Long-Term Disability for the Condition?
We have learned a lot about COVID-19: how it is transmitted, how we can fight the disease, and who is most at risk. However, we are only just beginning to understand how the virus affects our bodies over the long term.
If you are one of the roughly 30% of coronavirus patients who are living with long COVID or post-COVID symptoms, you might be eligible for long-term disability insurance benefits. In this article, our team explores some of the emerging research regarding long haul Covid and your options if you can no longer work due to the disease.
COVID-19 Can Cause Permanent Damage and Disability
Most people with COVID-19 start feeling better within a matter of weeks, but this life-threatening virus can have a profound effect on the human body — and we are just now starting to understand its full impact.
A Michigan-based survey, which assessed outcomes of 1,648 patients, found that at least one-third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience symptoms a month after their diagnosis. Further, 10% of people who were not hospitalized reported ongoing fatigue, muscle weakness, mental fogginess, and shortness of breath.
These numbers are similar to a comprehensive VA study that tracked more than 73,000 VA patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. A troubling pattern emerged from the study’s data:
- People with COVID-19 were 60% more likely to die within six months of becoming infected
- COVID-19 patients who were not hospitalized were 20% more likely to need outpatient medical care than non-COVID patients
- In addition to lung and respiratory problems, COVID-19 patients reported a wide array of new, previously undiagnosed medical conditions — including cardiovascular issues, neurological dysfunction, mental illness, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal problems.
It appears that there are many ways that COVID-19 can affect your body long-term, including:
- Multi-organ damage: COVID-19 can damage to your lungs, heart, brain, and nervous system — even leading to multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) and autoimmune disorders.
- Post-intensive care syndrome and PTSD: While life-maintaining equipment is often essential in severe COVID cases, it is hard on our minds and bodies. Many people who spend a long time in the ICU experience both a mental and physical decline in their health.
- Long COVID: Many patients report persistent COVID-19 symptoms, even when they do not have an active infection. Many survivors refer to themselves as ‘long haulers.”
While some of these conditions are supported by objective data (CT scans, pulmonary function tests, etc.), many long haulers struggle with subjective symptoms, such as fatigue and mental fogginess. This can lead to challenges in a short-term or long-term disability claim.
What Is Long COVID?
Doctors and researcher do not yet fully understand “long COVID,” or “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV2 infection.” A significant number of COVID-19 patients struggle to fully recover after contracting the virus. Even if their viral loads seem low and their diagnostic tests are within “normal limits,” they have difficulties returning to their pre-COVID routine, often reporting debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, and other symptoms.
In 2021, the National Institutes of Health launched a $1.15 billion four-year project that aims to uncover the condition’s causes, treatment options, and outcomes. Similarly, the National Institutes for Health Research in the UK are tracking 10,000 patients to monitor their long-term health outcomes.
RELATED: Disability Insurance in a Nutshell
Can I Get Long-Term Disability for Long COVID?
Possibly. To fully evaluate your eligibility and coverage for long-term disability benefits, you should start by reviewing your policy’s language. Specifically, look for the following information:
- Your policy’s definition of disability
- Its exclusions and limitations, especially those involving “self-reported” symptoms
- Its claim and appeal procedures
- Any waiting or exclusion periods that apply to your claim
If you need help interpreting your policy’s convoluted, technical language, schedule a consultation with an experienced disability insurance lawyer.
When you are ready to file a claim for disability insurance benefits, you will need to collect a lot of information about your medical conditions and current abilities. Because long COVID is a new condition, the insurance adjusters have a limited understanding of its signs and symptoms — you will need to do a lot of educating.
You should compile:
- Copies of your medical records, especially those involving your COVID-19 diagnosis and post-COVID treatment
- Statements from your doctors about your long COVID symptoms and any objective findings supporting your claim
- Any other information you have about your diagnosis and limitations
Are Insurers Denying COVID Long-Haulers’ Disability Claims?
Disability insurance adjusters tend to deny claims where they have a rare or newly discovered diagnosis — especially when people experience hard-to-measure symptoms like fatigue and mental fogginess. Right now, we are seeing insurance companies approach long COVID with a lot skepticism.
You should not assume that your long COVID disability claim will be simple and straightforward. We expect a lot of adjusters to argue that people with long COVID have fully recovered from the coronavirus and can return to work— implying that they are exaggerating their symptoms. They might also claim that long COVID symptoms are self-reported, triggering a two-year limitation on LTD benefits.
To fight back, you will need to work closely with a leading disability insurance attorney and experts who can explain this developing diagnosis, the objective findings that support it, and how it limits their ability to work. This might include consulting with neuropsychologists and other specialists.
Bryant Legal Group: Respected Long-Term Disability Attorneys in Chicago
Bryant Legal Group’s respected disability insurance lawyers are known for their sophisticated legal strategies and client-focused results. If the insurance company denied your claim or limited your benefits due to long COVID, please contact our office for a free consultation. We can help you understand your legal options.
Al-Aly, Z., Xie, Y. & Bowe, B. High-dimensional characterization of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19. Nature 594, 259–264 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03553-9
Chopra, V., Flanders, S., O’Malley, M., Malani, A., & Prescott, H. (2021, April). Sixty-Day Outcomes Among Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19. Annals of Internal Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-5661
Living with Covid19. (2020, October 15). National Institute for Health Research. Retrieved from https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/themedreview/living-with-covid19
NIH launches new initiative to study “Long COVID.” (2021, February 23.) National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/nih-launches-new-initiative-study-long-covid
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.