Coronavirus COVID-19 Complications, Respiratory Illness Disability Claims

Early evidence suggests that long-term respiratory or cardiac illness may result from severe cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus. The virus is so new that little is known for sure, except that there are serious long term effects of any severe respiratory disease.

Covid-19 May Cause Long Term Lung Injury

Most patients who get Covid-19 coronavirus have mild cases and most do not have any long lasting physical effects. The same may be true for patients who become ill and recover without needing to be put on a ventilator.

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But those who have recovered following a severe case requiring care in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and requiring the use of a ventilator are likely to suffer lung damage. Many people who experience severe respiratory illness go on to develop ARDS -- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – a life-threatening injury to the lungs where fluid collects in the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. Scarring, also known as lung fibrosis, has not been observed to date with Covid-19, but data is still being gathered.

The typical progression for Covid-19 begins with a dry cough, severe headache or sore throat. The virus produces thousands of copies of itself, which feature the now-familiar spiky round shape. Those spikes are surface proteins that attach to receptors on healthy cells, particularly those in the respiratory tract and lungs. Once the viral proteins gain access to the cells, they kill the healthy cells. Part of the ferocity of Covid-19 is that is travels deeper into the lower airways, where there are more receptor cells than in the upper respiratory tract, which is why pneumonia occurs frequently. When lungs become inflamed, breathing becomes difficult and the body is not able to get enough oxygen to feed the vital systems.

Severe COVID19 Infection May Cause Long Lasting Disabillity

The danger comes when blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels, the lungs cannot get enough oxygen to the brain and the kidneys and liver shut down. The degree of inflammation on the lungs becomes overwhelming and the body is fighting the virus in multiple systems. This is the stage where people are intubated, that is, they have a tube inserted into their lungs that is connected to a ventilator to breathe for them mechanically.

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There have been reports from the Hong Kong Hospital Authority that patients who have been discharged from the hospital following treatment for the coronavirus have been left with substantially reduced lung functions, but this was a very small study.

Anyone who suffers a severe respiratory disease may experience long-term effects to their breathing and cardiac health.

Recruit Experienced Attorneys To Help You File Your Disability Claim

Frankel & Newfield is concerned that the vast numbers of people who are filing short and long-term disability claims in the next six months are going to experience a larger set of obstacles to receive disability benefits. The sheer volume of claims is likely to overwhelm the ability of the disability insurance company’s ability to process them.

In addition to the volume of claims overwhelming the disability claims system, remember that the disability insurance companies themselves have had to shift employees to working from home. Large companies theoretically have the resources to accomplish this, but there is no way that the workflow of such a big company can successfully shift and continue at the same performance levels.

In other words, if you thought that your claim was going to be challenged pre-Covid-19, then expect disability claims to be much harder to be successful now. An experienced disability insurance law firm is going to be able to navigate the claims process, drawing on years of experience and knowledge of the law, the insurance companies’ processes and how things get done.

Frankel & Newfield Law Firm Has Years of Experience in Long Term Disability Claims

Frankel & Newfield has worked with many people suffering from serious respiratory conditions, including:

If you are about to file a short term disability claim for a post-Covid-19 respiratory condition, you will need to establish when you became ill and how the disease’s after-effects have caused you to be unable to perform the specific tasks and duties of your occupation. With a healthcare system that is overwhelmed by emergency patients, getting medical reports and documents will also be challenging.

The disability insurance companies will be deluged with short and long term disability claims and your claim may be caught up in an avalanche of claims.

Follow up care to a disability that follows having Covid-19 is necessary for your disability claim to be considered by the insurance company. If your treating physician is not a pulmonologist, infectious disease specialist or cardiologist, your disability may be challenged on the basis that you are not pursuing the best possible care.

People who suffer from respiratory diseases have their lung capacity measured through a variety of tests, from spirometry, a pulmonary function test that measures the volume of air that can be inhaled and exhaled over a specific period of time. Asthma is often diagnosed through spirometry by taking a test before and after the use of a nebulizer. Breathing tests that require the patient to sit in a sealed chamber and use a breathing mouthpiece to measure lung capacity are likely to have limited availability when all medical personnel have been moved to caring for Covid-19 cases.

These are challenging times for any type of disability claim, particularly those resulting from Covid-19. To speak with one of our experienced, top rated disability partners, please call our office at 877-583-2524.


Frankel & Newfield anticipates that this will be an area where the disability insurance claims managers will go head-to-head with claimants as soon as the flood of disability insurance claims reaches a certain peak. We have frequently seen the disability claims company make the argument that a dentist had filed a disability claim because their practice was performing poorly, and not that their income was decreasing because they were too ill to practice. In this case, the practice profits will have vanished when the office was closed, and will be severely impacted with the additional costs of keeping the office safe and the decrease in patient numbers.

Why Are Dentists At Risk for COVID-19?

It is now widely understood that COVID-19 spreads through the air. Aerosol particles, large and small, are exhaled through a person’s breath while speaking, and more so while singing or speaking loudly. The virus is also in the saliva and mucus in the mouth and throat. Dental offices use tools that cause oral liquids to be sprayed, like ultrasonic scalers, rotary abrasions, air polishers. The aerosolized cloud wasn’t a big deal in the past. Today, it’s a deadly threat. In fact, NY Times article said "most at risk" occupation..

How Can Nurses with Covid Protect Their Disability Claims?

Anyone suffering from COVID-19, especially those who are hospitalized and fighting for their life, is in no position to fight a disability insurance company. The family members are likely the ones who are trying to keep the children’s lives in some kind of normal state, as hard as that is in these rough times. An experienced disability insurance attorney should be consulted to advise the individual or the family about what needs to happen to protect their disability benefits coverage. Anyone with questions is invited to call Frankel & Newfield at 877-583-2524 and learn about how the firm can help.

I’m immunosuppressed. Will my disability insurance claim be denied?

Unfortunately, being immunosuppressed brings a host of legal issues to the disability claim. There have been court cases stating that there is no special protection needed for a person in the workplace, but the coronavirus pandemic makes going to work a potentially deadly decision.

The employer may be requested or even required by state or federal law to create a safe workplace for the immunosuppressed worker, but this may not be possible to accomplish. Consider the occupational therapist who works with elderly patients in a skilled nursing care facility. In the past, a medical mask and gloves may have been enough to protect the worker from diseases like MRSA, pneumonia and Clostridium difficile, referred to as C. diff, a bacteria that causes severe gastrointestinal illness. While these diseases can be fatal, they are nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19. We urge anyone who is immunosuppressed and considering a disability claim to contact our office for a free consultation. Every situation is different, and the question about coverage will depend upon the provisions in your disability policy.

Justin C Frankel

Written By:

Justin C. Frankel

Disability Insurance Attorney