Covid-19 survivors are reporting changes to their cognitive skills that are changing their lives, making it difficult or even impossible for them to work or manage basic tasks. Memory failures, like not being able to recognize their own car or completely forgetting a significant recent vacation, are just two of a constellation of post-Covid symptoms that are only now beginning to emerge.
Referred to as “Covid brain fog,” the troubling cognitive symptoms include memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing and dizziness. The same people who were so glad to have survived this deadly pandemic are now living in a changed world.
The science on Covid-19 brain fog is new, so doctors are not yet sure what’s behind it. Some think it is a result to the body’s immune response to the virus, or from inflammation to the blood vessels that lead to the brain.
Patients who were hospitalized during their Covid-19 illnesses experienced confusion, delirium and other altered mental states, known as encephalopathy, as reported in the article “’I Feel Like I Have Dementia’: Brain Flog Plagues Covid Survivors” from The New York Times. A study from the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, “Frequent neurologic manifestations and encephalopathy-associated morbidity in Covid-19 patients” reported that most hospitalized Covid-19 patients experienced these symptoms, and they are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Covid-19 is unique in that it causes multi-organ disease in patients, with involvement of both the central and peripheral nervous system in some individuals. Evidence of the severity of these problems is increasing.
A group of 3,930 people who have connected to discuss their lives post-Covid-19, Survivor Corps, say that half of their members have trouble concentrating.
Covid-19 Brain Fog and Long-Term Disability Insurance Claims
Our experience with long-term disability claims for “brain fog,” which is also a symptom of Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, Epstein-Barr, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), post-cancer treatment and other illnesses, has us concerned about how Covid-19 brain fog patients are going to be treated when they file a disability claim.
Denying a claim for a relatively new illness is a likely scenario for these claimants. While there is a growing body of medical research on Covid-19 in general and more specifically on brain fog and other neurological disorders that result from Covid-19, the newness of the illness may give insurance companies a plausible reason for denying a claim.
If it seems like a cruel thing to do to a person whose life has been altered by a new disease, it is. This is the experience that many people have had when filing for disability, and Covid-19 patients will not likely get any kind of special treatment from the disability insurance companies.
Filing a disability claim for an illness that cannot be measured in radiology studies or bloodwork is always challenging. Claimants who suffer from chronic pain or fatigue are often denied because their claim is considered subjective. Unless physical damage can be seen in a brain scan, the disability insurance company’s doctors will say that the patient’s claim of “brain fog” cannot be substantiated. And the claimant’s statement that they are not able to perform the material tasks and duties of their occupation will be challenged without physical evidence. Having the diagnosis does not equate to impairment necessarily.
Our recommendation for anyone who is facing this difficult situation is to call our office at 877-583-2524 with a family member or a trusted friend on the phone or on a video conference to discuss the challenges and options for your disability insurance claim. These are uncharted waters for so many people, and their condition will make it harder to fight back against these large uncaring insurance companies. We have represented many individuals with neurological disabilities and we understand the special challenges that need to be overcome. Call us today to learn how we can help.
Jason Newfield is a founding partner of the disability insurance law firm Frankel & Newfield. He has spent the majority of his legal career advocating for the rights of disabled workers. He has lectured other professionals, worked on a Federal Advisory committee, and published many articles in the field of disability insurance claims and litigation.
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