Commentary: COVID’s Impact on Long Term Disability Claims

Common long COVID symptoms such as pulmonary, neurological, organ problems, cognitive, psychiatric and post-viral fatigue, are being reported and limiting employees’ ability to work at their pre-pandemic capacity.

By staying informed on developments in federal and state government and insurance law, long-term disability lawyers can help clients claim their short and long-term disability benefits due to long COVID.

In July 2021, the Biden administration announced it would take steps to legally support and protect “long haulers.” In tandem with the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released updated guidance regarding accommodations in the workplace and disability support services. There is fortunately an indication that long haulers may be recognized as having disabilities if symptoms “substantially limit[s] one or more major life activities,” – such as walking, working and breathing – as per the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act.

The HHS categorized the types of symptoms stemming from long haul COVID based on life activities. Examples include chronic shortness of breath, limited respiratory functions, intestinal pain, nausea and memory lapses. The types of life activities and symptoms will evolve as health organizations gather more comprehensive data.

However, disability insurance lawyers should inform their clients that these announcements do not guarantee all symptoms and situations will be recognized by employer-sponsored group or individual disability plans.

Frank Darras
Frank Darras

Disability lawyers may suggest to clients with long COVID symptoms to:

1. Familiarize themselves with what it means to be disabled under their private policy or group employer-sponsored ERISA coverage. There is no harm in calling the insurer for clarity or contacting a long-term disability lawyer for a free policy analysis or claim help.

2. Visit a doctor. The HHS advised that an individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s long COVID condition or any of its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity.

3. Document all symptoms as well as related medical visits and missed work days. Symptoms would need to have impacted someone’s ability to work for more than 7 days for STD benefits and 30 days to qualify for LTD benefits in some policies. Be clear about the physical, mental, and psychiatric problems that prevent your return to full or part-time work and any medication side effects.

4. File claims early. The COVID virus generally lives in patients for two weeks or longer. If symptoms persist beyond that point, they should file a short-term disability claim and contact a long-term disability lawyer in anticipation of long COVID.

Anyone who cannot work due to long COVID should contact a California disability insurance lawyer for help understanding their coverage and potential claim.

Frank N. Darras has dedicated his life to helping the sick and disabled. He is the founding partner of DarrasLaw, the largest disability and long-term care insurance litigation firm in the country.

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