At Frankel & Newfield, we have been practicing long enough to have experienced a number of events that have impacted disability insurance claimants and the disability insurance companies. The current coronavirus pandemic has already disrupted the work flow of large insurance companies, who rely on a series of internal and external teams to review, process and determine benefits. Plan sponsors and HR departments are also experiencing the same disruption, as offices nationwide transition to WFH (Working From Home), with different degrees of success.
Based on our experience with the 2008 recession, we believe that there will be a huge increase in the number of people filing for short-term disability claims once the crisis ends. That will be followed by a similar increase in the number of people filing for long-term disability benefits.
The number of Americans who have filed for unemployment has hit historical levels, and those who are lucky enough to still be working are picking up the additional responsibilities of their former co-workers.
There are so many layoffs and reductions happening right now that the people who are employed are happy to be working, but they are also taking on additional work. This, and the pressure to stay employed, is likely to lead to high levels of employee burn out when the crisis begins to be resolved.
For many, lacking a quiet work space, chairs and desks that are not conducive to working long hours and trying to make do with ergonomically unfit work spaces will eventually start to take a toll on employees. Just as dentists and surgeons rely on proper equipment to serve their patients, employees working from home without proper work environments are encountering make-shift solutions that put backs, necks and shoulders at risk. The resulting musculoskeletal injuries will make up some of the post-crisis claims.
Mental health disabilities are also likely to increase dramatically. The stress of covering more than one or two people’s jobs, trying to work from home while taking care of children and homeschooling, plus trying to maintain a normal life in the face of growing national anxiety over a deadly disease is already having an impact. A survey from the American Psychiatric Association has found that more than a third of Americans say the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health. Depression and anxiety thrive on disrupted routines and isolation – both key stressors in a quarantine.
In addition to elevated levels of anxiety, it is likely that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome may emerge as a wide-spread disability in the weeks and months after the crisis. The adjustments to new circumstances, restrictions and financial losses are being felt by almost an entire population. There are reports of resulting cardiac implications from COVID. Will these claims arise in the near future, or longer term?
What can you do to prepare now for a possible disability claim in the near future? If you are concerned that you may need to file a claim, start keep track of your symptoms. You may not be able to see your regular physician in person, but telemedicine has now become the new normal. If you have worked with a therapist or psychiatrist in the past, it may be time for your well-being and for your disability claim to resume treatment. Document your work hours, tasks completed and uncompleted.
Don’t hesitate to call the attorneys at Frankel & Newfield. We are continuing to work, taking care of our clients and battling the disability insurance companies. You can reach us at 877-583-2524. Our firm represents people who are just considering filing a claim as well as those who have been on claim and have been terminated, or who are battling a claim denial.