Can I get workers’ compensation for long-term COVID-19?
Post-COVID-19 syndrome, also known as long haul COVID, occurs when those who had COVID-19 experience ongoing or new symptoms more than four weeks after initially getting the virus. This can last for months to years and in severe cases can lead to disability. Common symptoms include continued issues with shortness of breath, cough, and fatigue, but others have reported mental health conditions such as difficulties with focus and heart symptoms like pounding heartbeat.
Since extended issues with COVID-19 is a relatively new medical issue, we do not know the full extent or reasoning for these long-term symptoms. Medical experts believe organ damage may be one reason, as the virus can cause injury to the heart, kidneys, and brain.
Although new medical professionals are taking this syndrome seriously in part because it is relatively common. Experts at Mayo Clinic note that 1 in 5 individuals ages 18 to 64 and 1 in 4 individuals over the age of 65 have at least one medical condition that can be attributed to COVID-19 one month to one year after having the virus. A recent report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) also found 20% of nonhospitalized and 47% of hospitalized covid patients developed long COVID.
Who is at increased risk for becoming a long-hauler?
Those who had a severe case of COVID and required hospitalization for treatment or had preexisting medical conditions are at increased risk of this syndrome. The medical professionals at Mayo Clinic also report that long-haul symptoms occur more frequently in adults. Children and teenagers seem less likely to suffer from post-COVID-19.
What if post-COVID effects my ability to work?
Workers throughout the country are finding that this syndrome has a negative impact on their ability to return to work after the infection. Some point to problems with focus making it difficult to get their work complete, others struggle with fatigue and physical weakness. Employers can help to better ensure their workers have a successful transition back to work. Methods that help long-haul workers include the following:
- Provide accommodations. Employers can make changes to help accommodate workers who suffer from this syndrome. Examples include allowing workers to do a portion of their job at home, flexible deadlines, and providing additional breaks.
- Review paid sick leave. Employers could also use this as an opportunity to review their paid sick leave benefits. Adjusting these benefits could help address this problem while also making the position they offer more lucrative when looking to expand their workforce.
Those who suffer from COVID have found relief through the workers’ compensation system — as they should. The same report by NCCI noted above also found that the temporary disability indemnity benefit for long COVID patients averaged 160 days for those who required hospitalization and 95 days for those who were not.
What if I am denied workers’ compensation benefits?
Unfortunately, the workers’ compensation system is not always easy to navigate. These claims are contingent on your doctor giving a written opinion that the illness or injury resulted from an occupational exposure. Making the case that COVID occurred because of employment can be difficult. It is important to discuss with your doctor the origins of where you most likely were exposed to COVID before contacting a workers’ compensation attorney.