If you haven’t heard of what a COVID Long Hauler is, you should look it up. As a personal injury and long term disability lawyer, I don’t profess to be a medical expert. This is where I defer to the doctors have to say about COVID long haulers and the potential long lasting health implications by those who study COVID at the Mayo Clinic , Harvard Medical School and the Cleveland Clinic.
Tens of thousands of people who have contracted COVID, have been left with lingering symptoms and effects including but not limited to fatigue, body aches, joint pain, coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, loss of taste or smell, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. COVID Long Haulers can’t exert themselves or exercise and simple tasks (like walking to the mailbox or taking out the trash) will often leave them feeling exhausted. Chronic fatigue and chronic pain as being reported with COVID Long Haulers can be incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Many long-haulers also report brain fog, difficultly concentrating or feel like they aren’t as sharp as they used to be.
The reality of COVID is that it’s a new disease which began in an outbreak in around December 2019. Given the newness of the disease, doctors have little data to know the the long term effects or recovery from these long term effects/symptoms. Only time will tell. The vast majority of COVID Long Haulers test negative for COVID after the first few weeks of contracting the disease, despite still having these COVID long haul symptoms.
Long-haulers include two groups of people affected by the COVID:
- Those who experience some permanent damage to their lungs, heart, kidneys, or brain that may affect their ability to function.
- Those who continue to experience debilitating symptoms despite no detectable damage to these organs.
None of this is good. These COVID Long Haul symptoms won’t show up on any CT Scan, X-Ray or MRI. Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Brain Fogginess and an inability to concentrate are subjective symptoms. That means that you doctor, your family, friends etc. need to believe your complaints in order to understand what you are going through.
The fact that COVID Long Haul symptoms are subjective will make for tricky complaints with a Long Term Disability Insurer.
When making Long Term Disability Claim, an insurer looks for objective medical evidence to substantiate a disability. Examples of objective medical evidence are things like broken bones, a heart attack, kidney disease, a traumatic brain injury, or a cancer diagnosis a long lasting recovery period.
A COVID diagnosis is certainly an objective medical finding. But, the residual consequences of the long haul COVID symptoms such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, inability to concentrate etc are not objective. While it’s entirely plausible that someone who had contracted COVID may have these symptoms long after the fact; it’s entirely within a long term disability insurer’s right and consistent with their patterns of challenging not only the existence of these symptoms but also the impact they have on the disability claimant’s ability (or lack thereof) to function.
As a long term disability lawyer, it’s not uncommon for long term disability insurers such as Great West Life, Canada Life, Sun Life, Empire Life, Manulife, RBC Insurance etc. to challenge these subjective complaints to deny long term disability claims.
What comes to mind when I hear COVID Long Haulers and their subjective symptoms are people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is an objective medical diagnosis. The same as COVID is an objective medical diagnosis.
But the symptoms which are associated with both fibromyalgia and with COVID Long Haulers are more subjective in nature; leaving room for long term disability insurers to challenge the veracity and real life consequences of these symptoms.
As a personal injury and long term disability lawyer, I believe that chronic pain, chronic fatigue, an inability to focus/concentrate and all of those other symptoms associated with COVID Long Haulers will have significant consequences on one’s ability to hold down gainful employment or manage one’s day-to-day job.
Long Term Disability Insurers will likely have a differing opinion.
We have not seen many COVID Long Haul long term disability cases arise, because things are still new. But this does not mean that more of these claims won’t exist in the future.
It also does not mean that COVID Long Hauler claims won’t be approved as well. You would hope that during and after a Global Pandemic that insurers would show some compassion and approve these sort of claims until at the very least the 2 year mark and then re-assess at the time the definition of disability changes under the policy from “Own Occupation” to “Any Occupation”. If you don’t know the difference or significance of the “Own Occupation” or “Any Occupation” definition of disability, you should read about it in previous Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Posts which you can access here.
Even more difficult will be the percentage of the population who has contracted COVID, but not been diagnosed with COVID. In the event those people become COVID Long Haulers, understanding their long symptoms and the reasons for those symptoms will be difficult without a definitive COVID diagnosis. There is likely a test which can be run to determine whether or not you had previously contracted COVID without knowing you got it (an antibody test). But nonetheless, having COVID Long Haul symptoms appear somewhat out of the blue without a full understanding of where they came from and why they exist will be a hard pill to swallow for the disability claimant and may pose a big question mark for the long term disability insurer.
How these COVID Long Hauler Long Term Disability cases will be treated in the future has yet to be seen. But if chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression claims are any indication; it will be a hard road to get these claims approved in the first instance. Retaining the services of a long term disability lawyer to dispute your claim in Court may likely be necessary to convert that denial to an approval.