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COVID & Disability Claims

Posted by David P. Martin | Oct 28, 2022 | 0 Comments

Without question, COVID has had a significant impact on everyone's life. For some, the effects have been more pronounced than others. And while we have made substantial strides forward in dealing with its threats, the true long-term impacts are still unknown. But one thing is already clear – COVID can interfere with one's ability to work in ways that likely trigger short-term and long-term disability claims.

Many forget that they have disability coverage.

Short-term and long-term disability insurance is often provided by one's employer. If so, it is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with all of its conditions, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. But that doesn't mean the covered employees do not have rights and that pursuing them is not worthwhile. While the extent and effects of COVID are still being studied, the claims are maturing.

Disability coverage generally provides income to those who are unable to work due to some disability.

Benefits can be long-term or short-term. The cause of the disability may be immaterial. Some who are suffering from “long COVID” may not have even been tested, but it is the condition that causes the disability.

Long Term Effects of COVID-19

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the most commonly reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain

Other reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Intermittent fever
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

More serious long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported. These have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body.

These long-term complications include:

  • Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
  • Renal: acute kidney injury
  • Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
  • Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
  • Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood

Financial Impacts of COVID-19

While there have been various forms of short-term relief provided to ease the financial impacts of COVID-19, affected employees will need more.

Any one of these conditions could give rise to a short-term and potentially long-term disability claim, depending on the benefit's definition of disability and the employee's job duties.

Much of the legislation attempting to address the financial devastation of COVID contain various attempts at limiting liability for those who might be responsible. But none of them alter the contractual provisions of short-term and long-term disability plans nor ERISA's requirements that they are honored.

Don't forget about these disability policies for your clients! Let us know if we can help.

About the Author

David P. Martin

Senior & Managing Attorney


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