Declared incapacitated for work with long covid: ‘Feels like recognition’


NOS NewsTuesday, 21:42

  • Anna Prussia

    editor economics

  • Anna Prussia

    editor economics

The fact that the UWV benefits agency declared about 450 people with long-term corona complaints unfit for work in the first five months of this year feels like recognition to Marjo de Leeuw. De Leeuw works at C-support, an aid organization that supports people with lung covid on behalf of the Ministry of Health. “For people who have lung covid, it is often uncertain whether they will ever be able to work again,” she says. “We now see that the UWV takes the limitations these people have seriously.”

The UWV declared about two thirds of the people who had themselves assessed with long-term corona complaints in the first five months of this year completely incapacitated for work. These are people who became ill at the beginning of the corona crisis and subsequently developed serious complaints. So severe, that they can no longer work completely – or at all.

It is the first time that UWV provides a picture of the fate of a large group of people with lung covid. After two years of illness, these people have reached the point where their employer no longer pays their wages. “That often means a significant decline in their income,” explains De Leeuw. “And then you come to the UWV.” The benefits agency then looks at a (whether or not partial) disability benefit (WIA) or social assistance.

To be eligible for the WIA, you must be examined by a doctor. Many people with lung covid had concerns that they would not get through it, because much is still unknown about how the disease develops over time. In the end, 62 percent of the first group of 736 people was declared provisionally incapacitated for work.

A small proportion receive a full and permanent disability benefit; the majority of this group receive benefits that will have to be reconsidered over time. According to the UWV, most people want to recover and get back to work.

Sometimes hard message

A quarter of those inspected receive a partial disability benefit. According to the medical examiner, they must be able to work a substantial number of hours per week. That message hits some people hard, like Natasja Boon.

She got corona in March 2020, probably contracted during winter sports. She ended up in an artificial coma in the intensive care unit and has not yet recovered. “I have suffered damage to the lungs, among other things. In addition, I have lung covid, which means that I often have to sleep in the afternoon and am tired at the strangest moments.”

That the medical examiner nevertheless decided that she could work 32 hours and therefore only partially rejected her, was a sad message. “I was speechless, how am I supposed to do that?” Boon says. She objected. “The annoying thing is that that procedure could take until the end of this year.”

FNV is concerned

“I am concerned about the group of people who have been declared partially incapacitated for work because their income depends on whether they can still find partial work,” said Kitty Jong, vice chairman of the trade union FNV. “I also wonder whether you can assess people’s load capacity while it can differ daily. What is the inspection based on? We have many question marks about that.”

Although Boon hopes that she will eventually largely receive disability benefits, she is also happy that long covid is now being recognized. “It is good that people are completely rejected. There are people who go through a mild corona, but are now in a much worse condition. Fortunately, I am not in that bad condition.”

That’s what Nadine Böke says too. She got sick in the first wave. Her employer, the University of Amsterdam, decided to continue paying her salary for another six months. “I now work half days again, because I like my work. But after that I’m completely exhausted and I can’t do anything anymore”.

What will happen to Böke in six months is uncertain. “I find it exciting what the UWV will decide. From my work as a science communication consultant I know that some people get better, but some don’t. I myself mainly suffer from physical complaints. My heart rate is already running with light exertion very high up. And if I exercise too much, I get a fever and upset stomach.” Bökes inspection is probably in the winter.