Long COVID and Mental Health: A New Side of Disability

It’s hard to believe in hindsight that in its earliest days (and still by some today), COVID-19 was dismissed as nothing more than a ‘bad flu.’ To date more than 27,000 Canadians have died of the virus, and over a million have fallen ill over the past year and a half with varying degrees of severity. While some patients are lucky enough to escape with mild symptoms that go away quickly, others are not so lucky.

Between 10 and 30 percent of COVID-19 patients are now experiencing what has come to be known as ‘long COVID,’ and have been described in the media as ‘long haulers.’ That means that even after the active virus leaves their system (and they test negative for infection), they are left with lingering symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, brain fog, anxiety, and depression. Again while some patients may only remain with mild symptoms, others are finding themselves incapacitated for many months after with no end in sight. Even more alarmingly, a number of these long COVID patients reported being asymptomatic during their initial period of infection, and did not realize that they had contracted the virus until the lingering symptoms began to occur.

Video: What is Long COVID?

COVID-19 disability benefits have already become a challenging topic for insurers. While insurers like concrete lists of clearly defined symptoms and set timelines for improvement, the COVID-19 virus has thrown countless curveballs. Patients may experience completely different combinations of symptoms from each other, at different levels of severity, with different recovery periods.

Long COVID can become especially complicated for those who were already living with a mental or physical disability. For those with a physical disability, especially one that impacts mobility, this may now be worsened in patients who are struggling to breathe for months on end. The lingering respiratory effects of long COVID can be severe, leaving sufferers struggling more than they already had been.

For those with a mental health disability such as anxiety or depression, the pandemic as a whole has been grueling. To date there is no clear end in sight to COVID and no set date when the world will ‘return to normal,’ and this uncertainty has left most Canadians struggling, but especially those who already wrestled with mental health challenges. The lack of certainty that comes with long COVID, the lack of effective long-term treatment, the worries about inadvertently causing a flare-up of symptoms all together create a perfect storm of disastrous mental health, and can make working through these symptoms feel like an impossible task.

From a disability benefits perspective, long COVID has made things significantly more complicated. Symptoms may again look different in every patient, and insurers are frustrated by the lack of certainty. It may be difficult to gather the necessary medical documentation to substantiate a benefits claim, especially if a patient did not receive a COVID test during their initial infection because they were asymptomatic during the initial period. Insurance companies will press patients and their physicians for copious amounts of medical documentation which may be difficult to compile if symptoms and severity keeps changing. These situations are complex, and far too often lead to benefit denials for those with very real mental health struggles.

Video: Does mental illness count as a disability?

Yet for long COVID patients none of this changes the reality of your symptoms, or erases the fact that you are still struggling weeks and months later to simply get through the day. An experienced disability lawyer has dealt with difficult cases before, and cases where an illness and its symptoms may not be easily defined. They understand the struggles of mental health conditions, and the importance of taking time to focus on recovery instead of having to worry about workplace stressors. Contact one of our disability lawyers today to set up a free consultation and learn how Share Lawyers can help patients wrestling with long COVID.

If you have had your claim for long-term disability denied, contact the long-term disability insurance lawyers at Share Lawyers. Our experienced team of long-term disability (LTD) lawyers can help. We have recently settled cases against Canada Life, Desjardins, Manulife, RBC Insurance, Sun Life, and many more. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless we win your case. Find out if you have a disability case.

Related Articles

We’re here to support you during this difficult time

How can we help?