COVID-19 Coronavirus Complications Disability Claims

Disability Claims Resulting from Exposure to COVID-19 Coronavirus and Other Environmental Threats

The category of disability claims described as “environmental exposure” are not the same as disabilities that result from exposure to toxins in the workplace. This includes disabilities that result from being physically present in a work location. COVID-19 presents many different situations of environmental exposure risks that can lead to a disability. Here are a few scenarios:

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Individuals with underlying conditions at a high risk of complications from COVID-19 may determine that the risk of returning to the workplace is too great. Treating physicians will likely advise patients not to return to the workplace. Disability insurance companies are likely to push back against these claims; we anticipate that the corporate line will be that the person has chosen not to work and therefore has violated the terms of their disability policy, despite their doctor’s recommendation.

COVID-19-Related PTSD – Hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in hospitals, EMTs, nursing homes and related services have experienced conditions that can best be described as combat zones. The mental stress is a just beginning to be reflected in disability claims. How will these claims be treated, and how well supported will claimants prepare their claims are important issues that will be significant.

Addiction Exacerbated by Environmental Exposure – Addictions to pharmaceutical medications are a risk for healthcare professionals. Frankel & Newfield has represented physicians who were able to get their addictions under control, but found that being in their workplace – hospitals, clinics, medical practices – make it next to impossible to manage their addiction.

It should be noted that the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety and antidepression medications have surged with the pandemic. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that prescriptions for these medications increased dramatically in March and April. The combined stresses that the coronavirus has created, including general fear, uncertainty, unemployment, and social isolation are having a significant impact on American’s well-being. Doctors are concerned that the use of medication may lead to addictions that remain after the pandemic has ended.

Representative Case of Environmental Exposure Disability Claims

A dentist suffers from severe bronchial asthma, and her treating physician establishes that her disability is a result of long-standing exposure to respiratory irritants in the workplace, notably formaldehyde and common dental specific irritants (grinding silica, ceramic and porcelain crowns, acrylic and amalgam). She had scarring on a pulmonary CAT scan as well as poor results from Methacholine inhalation tests and pulmonary function tests. The disability insurance company did not argue against the fact that when she was treated with high-dose steroids, she did receive short-term, incomplete relief. But the insurer’s paper medical reviews failed to take into account the simple fact that when she was not treating patients, the doctor was asymptomatic. Frankel & Newfield overturned the claim determination and our client is receiving her benefits on a monthly basis – satisfying the proof of loss for her environmental disability.

Jason A. Newfield

Written By:

Jason A. Newfield

Disability Insurance Attorney