When most people think about COVID-19 and how it can impact your health, they worry about the risk of death. And although most people who catch the virus will have mild symptoms, there are those who don’t have mild symptoms, but who also do not die. These individuals often feel the impact of the virus for a prolonged period of time – even after it has cleared their bodies. These individuals are known as “long-haulers,” and are some of the most impacted.
Long-haulers often experience a variety of symptoms such as severe fatigue, loss of taste or smell, difficulty remembering things, and difficulty concentrating. The virus may also impact their organs in a manner that leaves them unable to function as they did before. At times, long-haulers have such debilitating symptoms that they aren’t able to go back to work.
For many COVID-19 long-haulers who are unable to work, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be extremely helpful. However, as such a new area of SSD law, many long-haulers have had their claims denied. Since this is a new path concerning disability, it can be really difficult to navigate.
If someone has had COVID-19 and experiences physical, mental, neurological, or cognitive symptoms lasting more than four weeks after their initial infection, these are considered post-COVID conditions. The CDC has defined three types of post-COVID conditions:
- Long COVID – the regular symptoms of COVID-19 but that last for weeks after the virus has cleared the body, leaving the individual to feel as though they haven’t recovered.
- Multiorgan Effects of COVID-19 – this includes organ damage that leads to reduced function or even complete failure.
- Effects of COVID-19 Treatment or Hospitalization – Symptoms that occur after hospitalization. It can be difficult to determine if these are caused by the virus, the hospitalization, or both.
Applying for SSD Benefits as a COVID-19 Long-hauler
Although it is possible to receive SSD benefits as a COVID-19 long-hauler, it can be extremely difficult. In order for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine if you are eligible to receive SSD benefits, you must answer five questions:
1. Are you working?
This asks whether you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity. If so, you must not be earning more than $1,310 per month in order to be considered disabled.
2. Is your condition “severe”?
In order for your condition to be severe, you must have a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI) that has prevented you from working or is expected to prevent you from working for at least 12 months. In order for the SSA to accept COVID-19 as an MDI, you can show:
- A report of a positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2 (a positive antibody test is not enough on its own)
- A diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., chest x-ray with lung abnormalities, etc.), or
- A diagnosis of COVID-19 with signs consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, etc.).
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, as there are many reasons as to why you may not have a test to show. However, if you have a diagnosis backed by medical evidence, it may still be enough.
3. Does your condition meet or equal a listing in the listing of impairments?
As of now, COVID-19 is not listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, which is used to help determine disabling conditions that may qualify for SSD benefits. However, while COVID-19 itself is not a condition, you may meet the criteria of another impairment already listed in the Blue Book, such as respiratory issues. If your condition doesn’t meet an already existing listing, the SSA will take a look at your work.
4. Can you do the work you did previously?
The SSA will take a look at the type of work you previously did prior to the virus and determine if you are able to do such work at this point.
5. Can you do any other type of work?
Even if you are unable to do the same type of work that you did prior to becoming infected with the coronavirus, the SSA will look to see if you are capable of doing any other type of work. If you are unable to do any other type of work, it’s likely that you could qualify for SSD benefits.
There is no doubt that this new area of disability law is complex and confusing, often requiring an expert to help you navigate it.
The Las Vegas SSD Attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC Can Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with a disability that prevents you from working, you may not know how to proceed. Fortunately, the attorneys at Roeschke Law, LLC can help. We understand the impact that a disability can have on your physical, emotional, and financial health. That’s why it’s our mission to help you. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!