The symptoms can stay with you.
“What if you never recover from COVID-19?” is the headline of a January 2021 news article. The fear is real for those whose infections have cleared - but for whom the effects have not. Some who have severe enough symptoms for a long period such that they cannot work may want to consider applying for disability from the Social Security Administration. COVID won’t automatically qualify you for Social Security disability, but you may be entitled to benefits if your symptoms are severe and long-lasting.
COVID long-haulers have a variety of severe symptoms.
COVID long-haulers are those who have yet to fully recover from a COVID infection. While the virus may be gone, in its wake you may have several persistent symptoms. Some of those persistent symptoms have been widely reported as: shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, and chest pain; brain fog, headache, heart palpitations, and muscle pain; heart inflammation, lung abnormalities, renal injury, skin problems, and loss of smell. But more symptoms are appearing. For example, some COVID patients losing teeth has been an reported.
Mental health is suffering.
In addition to the physical symptoms, COVID long-haulers often experience problems with their mental health. Even before long term symptoms from COVID were identified, people were already experiencing increased anxiety and depression, especially in young adults. Not surprisingly, mental health can suffer for those with long-haul symptoms - especially if they already had underlying conditions.
Social Security and COVID
Social Security has taken notice and is tracking COVID-related disability claims. While it would be a mistake to read too much into Social Security’s actions, it is another indication that we can expect to see COVID-related disability claims in the future. How many claims and for how long remain to be seen.
COVID does not automatically qualify you for Social Security disability, but…
Social Security has a list of conditions that will qualify you for disability - so long as the symptoms meet certain criteria. COVID is not among those “listings.” The listings are developed through a slow, pains-taking process, so a “listing” for the relatively new COVID-19 virus would not be expected.
However, the long-haul symptoms of COVID do not appear to be unique and are similar to or the same as other conditions. So, if you have severe shortness of breath after COVID, you might qualify under the listings for Respiratory Disorders. Similarly, heart trouble after COVID could qualify you under the listings for the Cardiovascular System.
So, if your long-haul COVID symptoms are severe enough that you are disabled and likely unable to work for a period of 12 months or more, you may want to consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Where to learn more:
- If you’re a COVID long-hauler or have a family member who is, check out this report “What does COVID-19 Recovery Actually Look Like”;
- Find a long-haul support group. There are several popping up, here’s a large COVID related group on Facebook;
- Use Disability Alabama’s disability calculator for an estimate of your benefit. While you do not need any special information to complete the calculation you may want to take a moment to think about your average yearly income and current household income before using the disability calculator; and
- If you’re in Alabama and want to talk to a lawyer about applying - or if you have been denied and need help with an appeal contact Disability Alabama.