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Disability Claims Post Pandemic

As someone who has practiced disability law for over 30 years, I, like most of you, feel we have entered the Twilight Zone since the start of the pandemic.  Initially we began receiving calls from individuals complaining of COVID 19 symptoms but who had no access to testing. Some had been tentatively diagnosed with COVID-19 based on symptoms through tele-med conferences with their physicians. Testing has become more available as we enter the re-opening stage of the pandemic.

From the start we learned that symptoms may include, but are not limited to, difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent, intense headaches, muscle pain, fever, chills, debilitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, cognitive “brain fog” issues, loss of taste and smell, and gastrointestinal symptoms, some of which were not as intense, or non-existent prior to the pandemic.

Some individuals who suffer from auto immune issues such as ME/CFS, lupus, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.., have complained of increased symptom severity since the pandemic began. This is hardly surprising since those with compromised immune systems are included in a class of individuals most susceptible to COVID-19.

Many recent news accounts have addressed other troubling health issues stemming from COVID-19, which impact even those who may not show any of the above signs or symptoms of the virus, including COVID pneumonia which “initially causes a form of oxygen deprivation called ‘silent hypoxia’, ‘silent’ because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature”, COVID toes, rashes and other symptoms. See https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-covid-toes-and-rashes-common-symptoms-of-coronavirus/ and See https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/opinion/coronavirus-testing-pneumonia.html.

Studies out of China about the long term effect of moderate to severe cases of COVID 19 , by testing biomarkers of recovered patients, documented that “recovered patients had lingering issues with liver function.” In addition, “The intense damage in some people’s lungs and hearts has researchers concerned that the health issues won’t end once the infection clears up.” https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/04/21/the-long-term-effects-coronavirus-may-have-on-the-body/24057222/

The Harvard Gazette recently reported that, according to Harvard specialists in epidemiology, infectious disease, economics, politics, and other disciplines, the heart can be significantly impacted by COVID-19. As was noted in the Gazette article, “COVID-19 is a spectrum disease, spanning the gamut from barely symptomatic infection to critical illness. It appears that the majority of COVID-19 patients experience mild to moderate symptoms. Yet a number of those infected develop heart related problems either out of the blue or as a complication of pre-existing cardiac disease. Reports from the earlier stage of the pandemic documented cardiac injury among 41 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, where 5% to 12 % had signs of cardiovascular damage. Testing on those patients revealed the presence of cardiac troponin-a protein released in the blood by the injured heart muscle-and abnormalities on electrocardiograms and heart ultrasounds. Subsequent reports have affirmed that cardiac injury can be part of corona-virus induced harm.”  https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/04/covid-19s-consequences-for-the-heart/

According to Dr. Libby, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “The propensity of certain viruses to attack the heart muscle and cause viral myocarditis is well known, adding that the most notorious viral offender has been the Coxsackie B virus. A recent case report from Italy underscores the notion that the new coronavirus could also infect the heart and affect heart muscle function in healthy adults even after the acute phase of the infection has resolved and even in the absence of lung damage.”

Dr. Khlifah Gates, a pulmonologist and Assistant Professor of pulmonology, critical care and medical education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, noted that the inflammatory response to COVID-19 is to generate cells to fight the virus which can flood the patient with that response. That response, in turn, damages vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys and the heart. “Unfortunately, particularly in the lung, this healing process can lead to irreversible scarring (fibrosis) that can greatly impact lung function long term.” https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/05/05/another-cruel-covid-19-trick-symptoms-that-wont-go-away/24207010/

While our local and federal governments are making advances in providing more accessible testing for COVID 19, it will likely be awhile before the entire population can be tested. And of course, the incidence of false negative test results is a cause of concern as well. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/21/838794281/study-raises-questions-about-false-negatives-from-quick-covid-19-test and See https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00502-w.

Many individuals fear the complete re-opening of communities unless and until the data is more certain. Many more, who suffer underlying health issues and have, pre-pandemic, stoically continued working despite their disability, are now refusing to return to brick and mortar buildings for fear that decision might be lethal. And others, who believe they may have been exposed to the virus as a result of COVID-19 related symptoms, notably fatigue, pain, cognitive deficits and gastrointestinal issues, among others, have decided they cannot return to work even remotely.

For those who are considering filing for Social Security Disability, and/or private disability insurance claims, for any reason, including COVID-19 related illness, we invite you to call our office to discuss which option may or may not apply to your circumstances. We are honored to do so. The initial consultation is free. So please call our office at our toll free number: 866 444 6939. Please stay safe.

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