One of the scarier aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the long-term impact the virus can have on a person’s body. Anyone who has been infected with the virus can suffer these after-effects, even if they had minimal to no symptoms from the virus itself. While most people who contract COVID-19 end up developing mild symptoms which go away within a few days, there are a notable number of people who continue to feel impacts for weeks, and even months. Those who experience COVID-19 impacts for an extended period of time have come to be known as “COVID long-haulers.” Long-haulers will commonly report things like loss of taste or smell, severe fatigue, and even report cardiac and pulmonary issues. Such symptoms can easily prevent a person from returning to work. But, will Social Security provide benefits for long-Covid?
Social Security and Long-Covid
Those suffering from serious impacts of COVID for an extended period who are unable to return to work may be able to seek financial relief in the form of Social Security disability benefits. The problem is, however, that the virus and its long-term impacts on some people are, relatively, a new phenomena. There is a lack of clear guidelines pertaining to COVID-related disabilities and this can make it very difficult to submit a successful application for Social Security disability benefits.
As COVID long-haulers are paving a new path in disability benefits, hopefully, more claims will be approved. For now, applying for disability benefits with the predetermined framework the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to assess disability claims in mind is probably a claimant’s best bet. The SSA disability review process starts, for instance, with assessing a claimant’s ability to work. If you are still working or engaged in “substantial gainful activity,” then your claim is going to be denied. If you are not working or are earning below the income threshold, then the SSA will move on to the next step in the process.
The next step is reviewing whether your condition would be considered “severe.” In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI) that has prevented you from working or is projected to prevent you from working for a minimum of 12 months. It should be noted that the disability caused by COVID-19 has been considered by the SSA to be includable as a severe condition, but symptoms alone will not be enough to receive benefits. According to SSA guidance released back in April, you must have medical documentation of a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis with lab tests or other signs that are consistent with the virus.
The SSA will also review whether your long-COVID condition is consistent with an impairment listed in their Blue Book of Impairments. COVID-19 is not, in and of itself, listed as a disabling condition currently, but perhaps will be in the future. You can still have your claim approved, however, if your condition is equivalent to an impairment that is already listed as a disabling condition.
If your condition is not found to equal an impairment listing, the SSA will review what kind of work you previously engaged in and whether you can still perform another type of work. If you cannot perform work you previously engaged in and cannot perform another type of work instead, you are likely to be declared disabled and awarded disability benefits.