I Have Long COVID, Am I Entitled to Disability Benefits?

After living in the shadow of the global COVID pandemic for more than two years, the world is ready to move on, but the virus continues to show that it isn’t ready to leave us just yet.

According to Worldometer, nearly 480 million people have contracted the virus and recovered. But what this number doesn’t show are the millions of people who have recovered yet are still experiencing the long-term effects of the virus.

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID can occur in anyone previously diagnosed with the virus, regardless of severity. According to a recent study of nearly 2 million people diagnosed with COVID-19, 23% of participants continued to show at least one symptom of the virus for more than 30 days after their initial diagnoses.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that “people with post-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.” The CDC lists the official symptoms for Long COVID as follows:

  • Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
  • Fever
  • Respiratory and heart issues
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Headache
  • Sleep problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pins-and-needles feelings
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Digestive issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

Is Long COVID a disability?

In July 2021 the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services jointly published guidance on how Long COVID can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If Long COVID symptoms are substantially limiting your major life activities, you should begin documenting your symptoms, compiling relevant medical records, and looking into which resources are available — as you may be eligible for disability benefits.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance helps provide a monthly income if you become disabled due to a covered accident or illness. This coverage can help pay credit card bills, mortgages, college tuition, and more if you’re unable to work because of a disability.

As an AOA member, you already have access to group long-term disability insurance. For details including eligibility requirements visit our long-term disability page to learn more.

Doctors: Invisible Disabilities And The Battles Within

Throughout the history of civilization, there have always been things that we did not understand— things that we believed to be real but couldn’t see. Faith, love— even germs all spring to mind though we may not have always had a scientific name for them.

While the human race has come a long way from our earliest beginnings, the simple truth is that science is ever-evolving and new things are discovered every day. Just as today we may laugh at some of the ancestral medical practices of the middle ages, our descendants may one day do the same to us.

The same could also be said for the discovery and further understanding and treatment of ailments previously attributed to an imbalance of the four humors or even demons.

The New Science On Invisible Disabilities

Most recently there has been a renewed focus on debilitating illnesses and diseases that may not always visible to the naked eye or even some advanced diagnostic testing techniques available to doctors and hospitals throughout the world. These ailments have been given the term invisible disabilities.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, in simple terms, an invisible disability is considered to be a physical, mental, or neurological condition that limits one’s mobility or senses to the point where they severely impact the individual’s everyday life and activities. Unlike other disabilities, invisible disabilities are imperceptible to onlookers and therefore can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgment.

For example, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has come a long way since the 1980s when it was widely dismissed as ‘yuppie flu’ and was suspected by many health care providers of being a psychological rather than a physiological condition.” To date, there is no definitive test for CFS and it is instead considered to be diagnosed by exclusion.

Another well-known illness for which there is no definitive test to confirm its existence is fibromyalgia. The reigning Queen of Pop (disagree, if you dare) Lady Gaga, has (very publicly) brought the topic of fibromyalgia front and center in the media. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has struggled with the illness for years, and though invisible— she has chosen to bravely document her struggle with its debilitating effects in the recent Netflix documentary Five Foot Two and has even been forced to cancel a number of shows on her Joanne tour due to the incredible debilitating pain associated with the illness.

Mental illnesses such as individuals who struggle with depression, anxiety, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and more are also considered to have an invisible disability (if the symptoms they experience are severe enough); however, in these cases there are often more definitive ways of testing and diagnosing cases.

In addition to those previously listed, below are a number of other known invisible disabilities. Please note that though extensive, this is in no way to be considered a complete list of possible invisible disabilities.

  • Allergies
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • Food allergies
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Hereditary Fructose Intolerance
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Personality disorders
  • Primary immunodeficiency
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schnitzler’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spinal Disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Testing The Odds

According to Disabled World, it is estimated that approximately ten percent of Americans have been diagnosed with a medical condition that could be labeled as an invisible disability. “Ninety-six percent of people with chronic medical conditions live with a condition that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn’t have a medical condition. About twenty-five percent of them have some type of activity limitation, ranging from mild to severe; the remaining seventy-five percent are not disabled by their chronic conditions.”

It has been estimated by the National Council on Disability that one out of every four Americans will be diagnosed with a long-term disability within their working careers. Could your family afford for you to be out of work for an extended period of time while you recover?

If you wish to receive more information about how you can safeguard your financial future in the event you are diagnosed with a long-term disability, please visit the disability insurance page for an instant quote, or schedule an appointment with one of our licensed benefits counselors.

How Chronic Stress Can Lead to a Long-Term Disability

According to Smithsonian, Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report illustrated that “More than half of United States respondents—around 55 percent—reported feelings of high stress the day prior to being polled…while 45 percent said they felt worried ‘a lot of the day’”. With the global stress levels at approximately 35%, this left the United States in a four-way tie with Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka for the fourth-most stressed country in the world.

And while a certain amount of stress is normal, chronic stress can cause more than just a few restless nights.

What stresses you out?

In November of 2017, the American Psychological Association released the findings of their annual Stress in America survey and found that roughly 61% of Americans feel stressed about their work lives. But some jobs can be more stressful than others.

It’s also worth noting that some of these types of jobs are known to attract specific personality traits. Occupations in the legal and medical field rank as some of the most stressful jobs in the country, which is something both the ABA and AMA are aware of.

In recent years, both associations have taken steps to improve access to mental health services for their members, and to destigmatize mental health conditions.

The Effects of Stress on Mental Health

According to Psychology Today, “Some researchers have suggested that exposure to a moderate level of stress that you can master, can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress, just like a vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the bug, can immunize you against getting the disease.”

While this approach may work for some, no two people are the same. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and may respond to stress stimuli in different ways. In short, what stresses one person out could have little to no effect on someone else.

Knowing When to Get Help

Chronic stress can often lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re reluctant to seek professional treatment for these issues, there are several things you can try to help overcome the symptoms. One of those ways is by carefully examining your diet: cut down on sugar, limit highly processed foods, and add fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your daily intake. Exercise is another way to boost serotonin levels and keep stress levels down.

However, if you’ve been experiencing any lingering or worsening depression and anxiety symptoms for two weeks or more, it may be best to visit your doctor.

If left untreated, it’s possible for your symptoms to become so severe that you find yourself unable to live your life as normal. They can actually develop into a long-term disability — and prevent you from working.

Protecting Your Income

In many cases, mental health problems are not something that can be predicted. As is the case with most disabilities, there is only so much a person can do to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do this is to protect your income.

If you are experiencing mental health issues and are forced to take a leave of absence from work, the last thing you want to do is worry about money. Since most of your expenses will continue during a time of disability, it is vitally important that you have a plan that covers those commitments.

As a member of the AOA, you have access to unique member pricing on long-term disability insurance. To learn more, receive an instant quote or to apply, please visit us at https://osteopathic.memberbenefits.com/long-term-disability/ and receive peace of mind today.

family outside in sunshine on a park bench with smiling baby

Why Young People Need Disability Insurance

When we’re young, we don’t always think about what could happen in the future. The truth is, debilitating accidents, illnesses, and injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, and any age. So no matter how young you are, it’s important to have a long-term disability insurance plan in place that can help protect your savings if something should happen to you.

Plan for the unexpected.

According to a 2017 Disability and Health Journal report, a long-term disability diagnosis can increase cost-of-living expenses by almost $7,000 a year. If you were suddenly no longer able to work, how would you manage to support yourself? Would your family be able to maintain its current way of life? Could your savings survive the average disability length of 31 months?

If a paycheck is your main source of income, you’ll most likely need long-term disability coverage to meet these needs. Even if your employer already has long-term disability coverage in place for you, it may not be enough. Employer-based plans sometimes only cover a fraction of your salary and may not factor in any bonuses that you (or your family) rely on.

What is long-term disability insurance?

Long-term disability insurance coverage is designed to help you and your loved ones withstand the financial changes that a disability can bring. If you become disabled and are no longer able to continue working, your coverage will kick in and help pay everything from medical copays to everyday expenses such as your mortgage or credit card bills.

Hopefully, you will never have to reap the benefits of a long-term disability plan. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have coverage ready when you need it. Your life can change forever in the blink of an eye – and being prepared can make all the difference in the world.

As a valuable benefit of your membership, the AOA Insurance Marketplace offers affordable long-term disability insurance coverage to members of the AOA.

To learn more, visit https://osteopathic.memberbenefits.com/long-term-disability/ or contact us at 1-800-282-8626 with any questions you may have. Our benefits counselors are available to help guide you to a plan best suitable for your unique needs.

man diagnosed with long term disability contemplating future

5 Most Common Attorney Long-Term Disability Claims

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, it is estimated that one out of every four Americans will find themselves diagnosed with a disability prior to retiring at the age of 65. Additional studies show that less than half of individuals and families have enough money saved to sustain their living expenses for even one month before feeling the financial strain— illustrating that a long-term disability diagnosis can not just be devastating for the individual but also financially devastating for their entire family.

In short, no one plans to become disabled. And yet, it can happen to anyone at any time and the chances of it happening only increase with age, lifestyle choices, and even the type of work we do on a daily basis.

Popular Long-Term Disability Claims

But while the majority of people may imagine someone who struggles with a long-term disability as wheelchair-bound, the fact of the matter is that long-term disabilities can manifest in a host of different ways— some visible, some not.

Below are the top five long-term disability diagnosis types by category according to our own research and the CDA’s 2013 Long-Term Disability Claims Review:

  1. Musculoskeletal/Connective Tissue Disorders and Conditions

According to the CDA’s 2013 Long-Term Disability Claims Review, nearly one-third of all long-term disability claims are due to musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. These are best described as issues related to neck and joint pain as well as back and neck issues; muscle and tendon problems; foot, ankle and hand disorders as well.

More specifically, the following are among the most commonly diagnosed musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders and conditions:

  • back pain
  • degenerated disk
  • arthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • rheumatism
  1. Nervous System-Related Disorders and Conditions

Most nervous system disorders are common and can be helped or managed with treatments such as physical therapy and/or medication. Nevertheless, with some being generative, working full-time or even part-time can prove extremely difficult.

Below are a few common nervous system related disorders:

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Epilepsy and Seizures
  • Shingles
  1. Cardiovascular/Circulatory Disorders and Conditions

According to the American College of Cardiology (ACC), it is estimated that an average of one person dies every 40 seconds in America due to cardiovascular disease. But for those individuals who experience cardiovascular issues and require surgeries and rehabilitation services, the time spent recovering can have a serious impact on their livelihood— limiting them from earning a paycheck as well as increased difficulties managing day-to-day activities.

  1. Cancer and Tumors

Studies estimate that 41% of men and 38% of women will develop some form of cancer within their lifetime. And while hereditary factors and lifestyle choices can play a part in determining one’s risk factor, there is no fool-proof way of determining if or when you will be diagnosed with cancer.

If a cancer diagnosis or tumor does occur treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries can leave your body sick, exhausted, and bedridden among other things. During this time, it may be difficult or impossible for you to keep up with your job duties.

  1. Mental Disorders

Depression and anxiety, are among the most common mental disorders that can affect one’s ability to work. Though the systems may not appear physical (though they can), mental disorders are nothing to be brushed off. If you experience lingering or worsening symptoms of depression or other mental disorders for a period of two weeks or more, talking to your doctor may prove helpful.

Most disorders can improve over time with the proper medical attention but leaving them untreated can lead to worsening symptoms that can have an effect on every facet of your life and limit you from living your best life.

Planning For The Future

Just because no one can predict the future, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still plan for it.

If you wish to receive more information about how you can safeguard your financial future in the event of being diagnosed with a long-term disability, please visit osteopathic.memberbenefits.com/long-term-disability/ to view the complete Long-Term Disability brochure or to download an application.

man with long term disability insurance with son at park

The Underestimated Value of Long-Term Disability Insurance

For many, the thought of investing in a long-term disability insurance policy may sound like an unnecessary expense. It is estimated that roughly 86 percent of Americans have desk jobs, therefore it is easy to understand why they might be under the impression that they have little to no chance of becoming disabled during the course of their career. This is a potentially dangerous mistake.

The Odds of Needing Long-Term Disability Insurance

While it is true that those who work more labor-intensive jobs may have an increased risk of becoming injured or disabled at some point in their careers, those who work in office settings also have at least a one in four chance of the same thing happening to them.

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Services estimated that there were 1,153,490 cases of work-related injuries and illnesses that resulted in missing days from work. This statistic can be scary for both businesses and individuals alike. And while most states mandate that every business with one of more employees must have workers’ comp. insurance, what happens when workers’ comp. and social security disability benefits just aren’t enough?

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What Every Doctor Needs to Know About Disability Insurance

Generally speaking, doctors tend to be proactive when it comes to planning for their financial future and retirement. Unfortunately, one aspect of financial planning that even the most responsible of doctors can overlook is that of purchasing Long-Term Disability Insurance. But what would you do if you were no longer able to feasibly practice law because you had cancer, were confined to a wheelchair, had a stroke or were unable to see? Would you and your family be able to maintain the same quality of life financially? If you’re like most doctors, then the answer is a resounding “no.”

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Long-Term vs. Short-Term Disability: What’s the Difference?

In order to make the most of your insurance plans, it is important to understand the difference between various insurance products offered. Long-Term and Short-Term Disability Insurance are two products that many people are often confused about. Here’s what you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how to determine which option is right for you.

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Meeting Financial Obligations After Disability: What’s Your Plan?

Approximately 37 million Americans are considered disabled; of those 37 million people, more than 50% are still in their working years (age 18-64), according to the Council for Disability Awareness. Unfortunately, many workers never even consider the fact that they could face a temporary or permanent disability, let alone plan for such a situation. What kind of a situation would you be in if you were to become disabled and unable to work?

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