covid-19 and quarantine concept. Sick man with headache symptom

It is possible to get disability for long COVID. Unfortunately, you’re in for a fight to gain approval from the Social Security Administration for disability benefits.

Though the Federal Government has determined that Long COVID should be considered a disability under the ADA, section 504 and section 1557, this applies to your relationship with employers and doesn’t extend to Social Security disability. Unfortunately, the SSA operates on much more stringent standards, and it hasn’t been possible to provide decision-making case managers with clear guidance to follow when making determinations.

What Is Long COVID?

There are a myriad of identifiable symptoms that come with COVID-19. Some people are lucky enough to have mild cases, at least initially, while others could end up very ill, and perhaps even die from it. While we are still learning about Long COVID in general, it can be said to have symptoms that persist, sometimes for many months, even after you no longer test positive for COVID-19.

Because we know so little about the effects of Long COVID, and have yet to document all possible symptoms, it is difficult to determine a sound strategy for agencies to use when confronted with the increasing number of people who are seeking disability compensation due to this disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Long COVID?

Long COVID has many possible symptoms related to it. While some are common, others are less so. There are even some rather severe symptoms that are related to Long COVID, and these can vary between people.  

These symptoms can appear in any combination and with varying intensity between affected individuals.  This is one of the primary reasons that there has yet to be any clear guidance given to the Social Security Administration when dealing with cases of Long COVID.

Common Symptoms

Some symptoms of Long COVID are common and shared by most people who are afflicted with the condition. Examples of some common symptoms you may run across if you have Long COVID are a persistent fever, a dry cough, and tiredness. The tiredness, referred to as fatigue, can be quite severe and impact the individual’s ability to remain awake and alert enough to work.

Less Common Symptoms

Some less common symptoms associated with having Long COVID, which often occur alongside the common symptoms, include aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headaches, loss of taste or smell, skin rashes, and discoloration of the fingers or toes.

While the severe symptoms of Long COVID are often found combined with the more common symptoms, and minor symptoms occur alongside the more serious symptoms, the signs of Long COVID vary from case to case. They are most often found in different combinations that vary greatly between individuals. The variation in symptoms makes it more difficult for the Social Security Administration to classify a person’s level of disability as it pertains to Long COVID.

Serious Symptoms

The more serious symptoms typically associated with Long COVID are shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, loss of movement, and loss of speech. These symptoms are serious on their own, and when combined with the common and less common symptoms, paint a disturbing picture for some people’s ability to perform adequately in a work setting after contracting COVID-19.

A combination of these symptoms related to Long COVID plagues many people, and has forced them to turn to other options to ensure their financial stability until they are able to return to the workforce. Like any new disease, it will take time for doctors and researchers to fully understand Long COVID and its effects on us. Until that knowledge is acquired, victims are forced to look for alternative ways to cope.

What Options Are Available to Me?

If you are suffering from Long COVID, there are different options available to you, depending on your situation. If you have access to short-term disability and long-term disability through your employer’s insurance plans, these may be viable options to help you remain financially solvent while dealing with the symptoms of Long COVID.

For those who are suffering from Long COVID that have exhausted both short and long-term disability options with their employer, the federal government’s distinction of Long COVID as a disability allows you to request certain reasonable accommodations from an employer with the expectation that they will strive to make working possible for you.

Not everyone’s Long COVID symptoms allow for this, however, and if you are one of those people, you may need to retain a disability lawyer to help you understand your options and develop a workable strategy for receiving some form of disability compensation.

If you are a worker in the extensive list of first responder and front line professions as dictated by the Governor of Illinois, you may qualify for COVID-19 benefits for essential workers due to your COVID-19 diagnosis and Long COVID symptoms. Talk to your attorney to find out if you might qualify for COVID-19 workers’ compensation.

Getting Disability for Long COVID

If you’ve exhausted all other options available to you for receiving compensation while out of work with Long COVID, you may be able to qualify for SSDI. However, it’s likely to be an uphill battle. Because the Social Security Administration doesn’t yet have any clear guidance about how to handle cases of Long COVID, you’re likely going to be denied upon your first application. If Long COVID were to be found on the extensive list of impairment available on the Social Security Administration’s website, the process would likely be simpler.

As it stands, you’ll need to prove that your Long COVID does indeed render you disabled and incapable of work per the SSA’s guidelines. While a condition that is already included on the list of accepted impairments, can more easily pass through all the red tape, new conditions, or those not included on the list, are required to be proven extensively by the person making the application. An experienced disability attorney will be a great help for you in achieving this goal.

Your attorney may direct you to a doctor that has more experience in dealing with the symptoms of Long COVID. He or she can give testimony or statements supporting the position that you are currently unable to work and will be unable to do so for quite some time. You’ll need to document everything related to your health and how you’ve been affected. Documentation is a key factor to success with any SSDI application, and it will be doubly important for you, when applying for benefits due to Long COVID.

Many people who have applied for SSDI benefits due to Long COVID were denied on their initial application. Some denials are due to lack of documentation, while others are simply because the SSA lacks guidance to follow when making a determination for those types of cases. An appeal needs to be filed quickly if the initial claim is denied. Many people find that their appeal is also denied, which leaves them no choice but to appeal again, and request a court hearing.

Is an Attorney Necessary?

While you are certainly not required to have an attorney throughout the process of applying for SSDI benefits, it can be helpful to your case. An attorney will help to ensure that the application is filled out correctly and entirely, and will help you to start collected the substantial volume of medical evidence that will eventually be necessary for your approval.

Once you’ve been denied and are in the appeal process, a disability attorney’s guidance will become more critical to help you understand the reason behind the denial, and to locate and provide any missing documentation or medical evidence in order to improve the chance of a successful appeal.

If you find your second appeal has been denied, it is often necessary to retain council for the court hearing that will be required if you want your SSDI claim to be approved. Your attorney has likely already been through the process of a SSDI hearing, and will know what arguments are most likely to have weight, and will be able to help you locate and prepare with medical experts who specialize in Long COVID, its symptoms, and their impact on your ability to work.  

A well-documented medical history, and an experienced doctor’s testimony of how your condition affects you and your ability to remain gainfully employed, can make the difference between a denial at the court hearing and an approval of your SSDI application. 

The reason you’ve been going through this long and arduous process is to help ensure your financial stability during a particularly hard part of your life, and it pays to bring experienced advocates to work on your behalf.