The COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a fading memory to some, but to others, it is still a reality to grapple with every day. This may be particularly true for those COVID long-haulers. You see, the majority of people who develop COVID-19 present relatively minor, albeit uncomfortable, symptoms which get better over the course of several days. They then get back to everyday life just fine. A strong minority of people, however, continue to suffer serious side effects of the COVID virus for an extended period of time even after they no longer test positive for the virus in their bodies. These people are sometimes referred to as COVID long-haulers.
Long haul COVID can come with debilitating fatigue. Some sufferers report difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and the persistent loss of taste and smell. In some cases, the symptoms may be so severe as to prevent a person from returning to work. Are social security disability benefits an option to help COVID long haulers in these situations?
Long Haul COVID and Disability Benefits
Can those suffering from long-haul COVID qualify for social security disability benefits? This short, straightforward answer is “yes, they can.” This should come with the caveat, however, that a disability claim based on long haul COVID can be difficult to successfully bring. COVID is so new that there really aren’t clear guidelines yet established concerning disabilities related to COVID. The fact remains though that, while it may be difficult, it is not impossible to get disability benefits for your long haul COVID.
To determine whether you qualify for disability benefits pursuant to your long haul COVID condition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will use its five step framework that begins with the question of whether or not you are currently working. More specifically, the SSA will ask whether you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you are working, but earning below the SGA level, then SSA will move to the second step. If you are not working, the SSA will move to the second step. If you are working and earning above the SGA threshold, that is where the inquiry will stop.
The second step process is the SSA determining whether your condition is “severe.” To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a Medically Determinably Impairment (MDI) that prevents, or has prevented you, from working for a minimum of 12 months. The SSA has previously released guidance stating that COVID-19 will be considered an MDI if a person’s symptoms are severe enough and they have medical documentation of a positive COVID test or diagnosis.
With severe enough symptoms and positive COVID medical documentation, the SSA will move to the third step which is checking to see whether the condition is listed or is equal to a listing on the SSA’s list of impairments. COVID is not currently on this list of disabling conditions. However, you can still be successful in surmounting this hurdle in the process of your condition is found to be equal to the criteria of another impairment on this list.
Finally, the last two steps in the process will relate to your work history and your current ability to work. The SSA will look to whether you can do work you may have previously engaged in. If not, they will look to whether you can engage in any other kind of work under your previous health condition. If you cannot, the SSA will deem you disabled and you will be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
Has long-haul COVID stopped you from working? Talk to Disability Advocates about your Social Security disability benefit options. Contact us today.