In the past, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) was associated with combat veterans. Today, the warriors on the front line are the nurses and doctors, hospital workers of all kinds, first responders and all of the essential workers who are not able to stay home during this global pandemic. The impact of the stress they are experiencing is just starting to be seen.+
Mount Sinai Health System, one of New York City’s major health systems, announced that it will open a center to address the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of frontline healthcare workers in the system. The dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai expects that between 25 to 40 percent of first responders and health care workers will experience PTSD as a result of COVID-19.
Nurses, doctors, trainees, students, clinicians and support staff are living through a medical nightmare that has never been seen in modern history. For hospitals that are well-supplied and staffed, hundreds of patients are dying despite all that modern medicine can do. For facilities that don’t have enough Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators or enough beds for COVID-19 patients, health care workers are experiencing the stress of knowing that they don’t have the materials they need to help patients, even to provide comfort as patients die. The sheer number of patient deaths and the intensity of the disease will lead to many thousands of health care workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
What happens when today’s health care providers become tomorrow’s patients?
Most ERISA disability policies, that is, disability insurance polices that are provided as part of an employee’s benefits package, have a 24-month limit on claims that include depression, anxiety nervous and mental disabilities, including PTSD.
This time limit has always presented a problem for mental/nervous claimants:
- LTD insurance companies often red flag mental/nervous claims.
- There is often increased medical reporting required to demonstrate a mental/nervous claim.
- The insurance company may try to redefine the claim as being a partial or residual disability, where the person can still work, but in a limited capacity to minimize financial exposure.
- The fear of a 24-month limitation to a claim may become an added stressor.
Frankel & Newfield expects that the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on healthcare workers will have a big impact on long term disability insurance companies. It is possible that the number of claims, along with the visibility of the health care workers during the pandemic, may push the insurance companies to do the right thing and extend disability benefits. But these companies are not exactly known for their generosity. Nor are they flexible when it comes to the terms of their contracts.
Our recommendation for any health care or other essential worker who is being treated for PTSD or any kind of mental/nervous condition is to speak with our office before filing a claim. Call us at 877-583-2524 to discuss your situation and learn what your options are. Frankel & Newfield has represented many medical professionals throughout our years of practice.