Obtaining long-term disability benefits from employer-provided insurance policies is rarely easy. Except for cases involving the most obvious, easily proven disabilities, obtaining long term disability benefits presents profound challenges (and even those cases can be challenging).
Especially challenging are claims involving newer illnesses that haven’t been solidified in previous case law. A recent example involves mental health issues like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which were only established in our public consciousness and the healthcare profession relatively recently.
COVID-19 and the lingering symptoms, called long-COVID, are the most recent illnesses that are causing disability. Because it is such a new disease and the long term effects are just now being recognized, there is very little data regarding long-term health and disability implications.
Post-COVID disability lawsuits hit the courts
However, cases involving long-term disability insurance claims resulting from “long-haul” COVID are starting to show up in the court system, where hopefully the relevant issues will be worked out.
According to Bloomberg Law online, “one of the first federal lawsuits seeking disability benefits based solely on post-Covid ailments under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act” (ERISA) was filed Tuesday, December 11, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
In this case, the plaintiff suffered a severe case of COVID-19 in September of 2020. The aftermath of the illness was arguably worse than the illness itself, however, as the plaintifif suffered severe fatigue, chronic coughing and asthma, cognitive disfunction, vertigo and other serious symptoms.
Her claim was denied by her long term disability carrier, and the lawsuit seeks a court order for the insurance company to provide her disability benefits and attorney fees.
What this case means
At this point, the case is just starting, so there is no definitive answer as to what this case will mean for those disabled from post-COVID symptoms. However, the good news is that there is movement here. As this case and similar cases make their way through the courts, precedent will be set as to how these cases should be decided, giving clarity to everyone involved. Further, there is hope that this clarity will streamline the process of applying for and appealing denials of benefits for this serious, disabling condition.
While cases of this kind are still being argued and settled in the courts, it is more important than ever to work with an experienced disability insurance attorney to help you get the benefits you need.