Claiming Disability Benefits for Covid-19
Covid-19 may cause long-term Effects
Most Canadians who contract Covid-19 have experienced fairly minor or no symptoms, but in about 20 percent of cases, this disease causes serious symptoms, such as breathing problems, necessitating hospital care. Of the patients who suffer moderate-to-serious symptoms, many fully recovered within three months with proper care, but some have been left with long-term damage and life-changing complications, from which they may take years to heal, if at all.
Age (particularly, advanced age) has been shown to be a significant factor in both the seriousness of symptoms and the potential for long-term effects, and persons over the age of 60 are at greatest risk of developing damage to their organs, after being on a ventilator for a prolonged period. However, young people are not immune to complications, as was evidenced in the recent report of a 28-year-old American woman, Mayra Ramirez, who required a double-lung-transplant in a Chicago hospital after both her lungs were irreversibly damaged by Covid-19.
The following complications are suffered by some patients who experienced moderate-to-severe Covid-19 symptoms:
scarring of the lungs, resulting in lung damage and respiratory problems
blood clots causing heart attack or stroke
reduced kidney function and renal failure
heart damage and inflammation of the heart muscle
neurological problems, including headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness, brain fog
increased risk of diabetes
Although Canadians with mild Covid-19 symptoms are more likely to fully recover than those with more severe symptoms, some persons with a mild form of the disease suffer with persistent ailments for several weeks or even months after they were no longer infected. On July 22nd, CBC’s ‘the National’ reported the findings of a UK study based on 4 million patients, which found that, while most patients recovered within 2 weeks, about 10 percent of persons with mild symptoms continued to suffer from symptoms, such as breathlessness, brain fog, stomach pain and recurring fatigue, for several weeks or months. The reason for these persistent symptoms has not been determined but one theory suggests that it may be the result of the body’s autoimmune response to the virus, for these cases.
A Calgary man, Peter Ruptash, is one of the unlucky Canadians who has been suffering long-term disabling symptoms since he contracted Covid-19 in early April. Mr. Ruptash was hospitalized for 39 days with serious symptoms and since being released from hospital, the 64-year-old man continues to suffer from chronic fatigue, weakness, a lack of stamina, dizziness and brain fog. He says he needs to nap 2 to 4 hours every afternoon and has gone from being a relatively healthy person and active hiker to someone who feels extremely tired all the time and has difficulty climbing stairs.
Beyond the physical symptoms and disorders associated with Covid-19, many Canadians have experienced significant psychological symptoms, particularly increased anxiety and depression, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employment and financial worries, fear of becoming infected, anxiety for family members, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation, have caused anxiety for many of us but, for some people, the increase in psychological stress is debilitating. Further, persons who already suffered from anxiety or depression prior to the epidemic but were able to manage their psychological symptoms, may find that the Covid-19 pandemic has created so much additional stress that they can no longer cope or function on a day-to-day basis as they did prior to the crisis.
Claiming disability benefits for Covid-19
If you are covered for disability benefits under your employer’s plan or another disability insurance policy, you are entitled to claim benefits if Covid-19 symptoms prevent you from doing your job for a significant period, whether you are receiving care in hospital or struggling with your symptoms at home. Long-term disability (LTD) benefits provide a form of income replacement, commonly between 60-70 per cent of your pre-disability income (depending on the terms of your policy) and a qualified person may be paid disability benefits until age 65.
As with other medical conditions and injuries that cause long-term disability, you are entitled to receive benefits for up to two years if Covid-19 symptoms or complications prevent you from performing the important tasks of your current job. In order to qualify for benefits beyond two years, your health problems must prevent you from performing any job to which you are suited, given your education, training and experience.
Disability plans typically specify a waiting period, often 3 to 6 months, before a qualified person may receive long-term disability benefits, but many plans pay short-term benefits until the LTD benefits begin.
If you cannot return to work for medical reasons related to the Covid-19 pandemic, due to your physical symptoms and/or mental health issues, you must complete the disability claim application provided by your disability insurance company or employer. A completed application will include medical reports and other medical evidence provided by your attending physician, describing your specific symptoms and treatment, and must explain how your health condition prevents you from working. There is a deadline for claiming disability benefits and it’s a good idea to check the terms of your policy to ensure that you don’t submit your Covid-19 disability claim and any required medical evidence too late.
If you were denied disability benefits for Covid-19 or any other condition, or have questions about your claim, talk to an experienced K-W disability claim lawyer at Dietrich Law. We anticipate a significant increase in the number of claims arising from Covid-19, particularly given the heightened levels of stress for many Canadians, but the increased volume in claims certainly doesn’t release disability insurers from their obligation to provide timely benefits to claimants with legitimate health reasons for not returning to work.