Lack of PCR testing should not impact long-term disability benefits for people with long-standing COVID

As more people suffer from a lengthy COVID and try to access disability benefits, some are asked to prove they were sick, but an Ottawa lawyer says it’s their ability to work, not illness, which ultimately matters.

The Ontario government began restricting access to PCR testing last week as an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases put pressure on the province’s testing capacity. This means that many people with symptoms related to COVID cannot access a PCR test, while some have access to rapid antigen tests.

But neither of the two tests was available for Chantal Renaud when she contracted COVID-19 in April 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic.

For almost two years, the Clarence-Rockland woman has suffered from shortness of breath, postural tachycardia – a rapid heart rate whenever she sits or stands – severe post-exercise discomfort and hair loss, among other symptoms. all linked to the long COVID.

“It’s extremely disabling,” she said.

Chantal Renaud of Clarence-Rockland, Ont., Contracted COVID-19 from her husband in the spring of 2020. She is suing her employment insurance company for failing to recognize the symptoms now associated with “long-haul” patients. (Courtesy of Chantal Renaud)

Despite her symptoms, her former employer’s insurance company refused her claim for long-term disability benefits, which ultimately forced her to quit her job and sell her house. Renaud filed a lawsuit against the insurer last January.

“It’s a nightmare when they deny allegations,” she said.

Renaud is not alone. Many people with long COVID symptoms have had difficulty accessing certain benefits, some because they lacked proof that their illness is caused by the virus, and some because long COVID is relatively new and some insurers do not recognize it.

With the recent increase in cases, Renaud said she was concerned that the number of people with long-standing COVID who will not be able to access benefits may also increase exponentially.

“Knowing what I know about the long COVID, I’m one of the few people who knows what’s really coming, and it caused me more anxiety,” she said, “Because that I don’t want anyone to get as sick as me. “

Useless PCR test, lawyer says

An Ottawa lawyer says it’s a common misconception that someone needs a positive PCR test to access short and long-term disability benefits.

“It’s not about what concerns you, it’s about an objective assessment of your conditions,” said Janice Payne, employment lawyer with Nelligan Law in Ottawa.

Many people who contract COVID-19 likely won’t be able to access a PCR test to prove the diagnosis, but Payne said the claims process should remain the same regardless of the test.

Employment lawyer Janice Payne said insurers aren’t supposed to assess the illness that caused a person’s symptoms, but whether or not they can perform their duties. (SRC)

“To get access to sick leave or disability leave, as a first step anyway, all you have to do is establish, with the help of a healthcare professional, that you are currently suffering from conditions which handicap you to such an extent that you cannot perform normal duties of your profession, ”she said.

“That’s really all that matters.”

She said an insurer is entitled to medical information to confirm the existence of a disability, but not its nature.

Payne’s advice to those who contract COVID-19 now, and especially to those who cannot prove the diagnosis with a PCR test, is to write everything down.

“It is very important that they document their symptoms with their [doctor],” she said.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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