Will COVID “Long-haulers” Qualify for Disability Benefits?

March 12, 2021

Doctors, scientists, and other medical experts are still searching for the answers to many questions about COVID-19. One of the most puzzling is how patients who have in theory recovered from the disease and have tested negative, are still suffering from symptoms of the disease—in many cases serious, debilitating symptoms which prevent them from being able to work. These people are known as “long-haulers”.

At this time, it is unclear exactly how many long-haulers there are. Some medical experts have estimated that between 3% and 10% of those who have contracted COVID-19 could be long-haulers. Because, so far, more than 25 million Americans have had the disease, the number of long-haulers could be huge—perhaps numbering in the millions.

Some long-haulers have applied for Social Security disability benefits, but it is unclear if they will get them. To qualify for benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)* the basic requirements you must meet include: solid medical evidence that your impairment prevents you from sustaining full-time competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis, and evidence that your impairment has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or longer.

It is this last requirement that complicates the long-haulers cases. Because COVID-19 has scarcely existed as a recognized disease for 12 months, it is hard to prove with any certainty how long the disabling effects of COVID-19 will last. Some patient advocates have called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be proactive, and to get out in front of this situation. In a statement, the SSA told National Public Radio that “the current disability policy rules should be sufficient for evaluating COVID-related applicants…Researchers are still learning about the disease and we will continue to look at our policies as research evolves.”

We at Nash Disability Law join with other advocates for the disabled in calling on the Social Security Administration to take a comprehensive look into how this disease is affecting long-haulers, to update Social Security policies, and to offer clear guidance.

What we know about COVID-19 is evolving and changing almost every day. The staff and attorneys at Nash Disability Law are staying on top of how Social Security disability fits into this rapidly-evolving situation. If you are unable to work due to symptoms of COVID-19 and considering applying for disability benefits contact us for a free evaluation of your situation.

*(For an explanation of these two programs, read our blog post “Question of the Month: What is the difference between SSDI and SSI?)