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Female Doctor and Disabled Elderly Man in Wheelchair Wearing Masks

LONG HAUL COVID & DISABILITY

Beedem Law June 30, 2022

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the nation’s economy and its workers were thrust into strange new territories – businesses closing, layoffs carried out, work-at-home arrangements established, masks mandated, social distancing enforced, people ordered to stay at home, and of course, millions of citizens falling ill to the virus and hundreds of thousands dying.

While many of those infected by the virus suffered no or just mild symptoms that receded quickly, some people actually fell sway to what is now referred to as long COVID, also known as post-COVID conditions, post-acute COVID-19, and chronic COVID. Many of these so-called COVID “long-haulers” are still suffering symptoms months later that make it hard or even impossible for them to carry out the duties of a daily job.

The question is – can they qualify for disability benefits since the COVID symptoms are making it mostly impossible to work a daily job? The answer is maybe, no, and yes. Since long COVID is hard to diagnose and prove, the road to obtaining disability benefits can be challenging.

If you or a loved one is suffering from long COVID symptoms that prevent you from fulfilling your work obligations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, contact the disability attorneys at Beedem Law.

We have a combined more than 50 years of experience in helping people pursue their disability benefits from government programs and private insurance providers, and we stand ready to help you navigate the disability benefits system. We also proudly serve clients in St. Paul, Duluth, and throughout the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, and Anoka, Minnesota.

What Are the Symptoms of Long COVID?

Fatigue and a “fuzzy” brain are two commonly referenced symptoms of long COVID. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe long COVID symptoms as including:

  • Tiredness or fatigue

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes called “brain fog”)

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Headache

  • Dizziness on standing

  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (known as heart palpitations)

  • Chest pain

  • Cough

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Fever

  • Loss of taste or smell

The CDC adds that the list is not “exhaustive,” as there can also be damage to several organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and brain.

Disability Benefits for Long COVID

There are sources for obtaining benefits for your suffering from long COVID, but the general standard is that the debilitating symptoms must rise to the level of a disability.

You may have a long-term disability (LTD) insurance policy you purchased at work or on your own. Workers’ compensation may also figure in. In addition, federal programs, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may also be available.

Long COVID and SSDI

When it comes to SSDI, you must qualify under the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its definition of disability, which requires that you be unable to work for at least 12 months because of a medically recognized condition. The SSA actually maintains a list of medical conditions that qualify as a disability. You will have to provide medical evidence from your health care providers to prove that you have a disability that qualifies.

SSDI approval is routinely tough, with about 60 percent of all claimants being initially rejected. Even if you are approved, there is a five-month window before you can start receiving benefits. Improve your chances with the help of an experienced, knowledgeable disability attorney.

Long COVID and the ADA

The ADA allows you to seek a workplace accommodation for your disabling condition, so long as your condition “substantially limits” a major bodily function such as the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the neurological system, the circulatory system, or the function of a major organ. 

The ADA also applies if your condition limits a “major life activity” such as seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

A workplace accommodation involves a change in routine or working hours, adaptive devices, workspace reconfigurations, or any other modification that will allow you to continue your work duties while suffering or recovering from your disability.

The CDC considers long COVID a physical or mental impairment under the ADA, Sections 504 and 1557.

FMLA, LTD Policies, and Workers’ Compensation

If you need time to care for yourself, you can also obtain unpaid leave to do so under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if your employer is covered. An FMLA-covered employer is one with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius.

If you’re seeking disability benefits under an LTD policy, which you purchased at work or on your own, you will once again be required to provide the medical evidence to show you cannot perform the duties of your present job.

Most LTD policies have what they call elimination periods of six months, more or less, before the benefits can kick in. They often also contain provisions distinguishing between “own occupation” and “any occupation.” They may allow benefits for a number of months, often 24, when you are unable to perform the duties of the occupation at which you became disabled. After that, they will require you to obtain employment in any occupation that you are capable of performing.

Workers’ compensation is designed to cover diseases contracted during the course of your work, but COVID is an often-tough disease to pin on a workplace. First responders and health care workers, because of their contact with others suffering from COVID, are the most likely to qualify for workers’ compensation.

The Importance of Skill Advocacy

With its diverse and numerous symptoms, long COVID can be a tough road to travel toward obtaining disability benefits. Don’t go it alone. Insurance adjusters and SSA agents are going to challenge you to prove you truly have a disability that requires benefits. Even with an ADA claim, your employer can assert that accommodating your disability will cause the business “undue hardship.”

If you’re suffering from long COVID in Minneapolis, Minnesota, contact the disability insurance attorneys at Beedem Law. We know all the laws and understand how insurance claim adjusters and SSA disability examiners operate and can deal with them on the proper terms. Let us work with you to obtain the just benefits you deserve. We also proudly serve clients in St. Paul, Duluth, and throughout the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, and Anoka, Minnesota.