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COVID Long-Haulers Fight Uphill Battle for Disability Benefits

People who are experiencing debilitating residual effects of COVID-19 are finding that getting approved for disability is extremely difficult despite the condition being named a qualifying disability.

COVID has infected more than 80 million people and claimed more than 980,000 lives in the United States. According to a Washington Post report, between 750,000 and 1.3 million Americans are estimated to be too sick with Long COVID to return to their jobs.

Long COVID is difficult to prove without experienced legal counsel. With only two years in existence, the condition lacks the years of data and clinical study that often lays the foundation for a disability claim. The divergent symptoms also mean that Long COVID doesn’t fit into a tidy diagnostic box.

Despite these challenges, our attorneys at Dabdoub Law Firm have successfully argued for COVID Long-Haulers to get the disability benefits they deserve.

What Is Long COVID?

Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) is more commonly called Long COVID. According to the American Medical Association, between 10% and 30% of patients with COVID-19 have or have had lingering effects after recovering from the acute infection.

Long COVID can occur in patients who had either serious or mild symptoms during their initial infection. Symptoms of Long COVID can be worse and last longer in comparison to the original illness. The symptoms can develop more than a month after a patient believes they have successfully beat COVID-19.

Long haulers, as patients with Long COVID are known, experience a wide range of symptoms. This diverse array makes diagnosing and treating patients challenging for health care professionals. Complicating the problem is that extreme symptoms can remain despite lab work and tests showing no continued evidence of active infection.

Symptoms of Long COVID can include the following:

  • Brain Fog
  • Chronic Headaches
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

The medical and scientific communities are studying Long COVID. Among their discoveries is that Long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) have similar symptoms. The onset of most ME/CFS cases is also traced to a viral infection. Chronic fatigue lasting longer than four weeks occurs in 40% of COVID-19 patients.

Long COVID can also damage the heart. Long haulers are more vulnerable to heart failure, pericarditis, cerebrovascular disorders, and other serious cardiovascular diseases. Long COVID may also damage the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system.

Long COVID Is a Qualifying Condition for Disability

Long COVID can prevent patients from being able to work or participate in typical daily activities.

In conjunction with the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 2021, the federal departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Education released guidance establishing disability rights for certain Americans with Long COVID.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated that a person with COVID-19 and Long COVID can be determined to be disabled under the ADA. In a statement, the Department of Justice said the agency is “committed to making sure that people (with Long COVID) understand their rights under federal nondiscrimination laws.” The U.S. Department of Education has also underscored schools’ responsibility to provide services and reasonable accommodations for students with Long COVID disabilities.

The announcements also made clear, however, that Long COVID is not automatically considered a disability. Arguments must be made on an individual basis. So far, getting the disability designation has proven difficult.

Challenges in Obtaining Long COVID Disability

Disability insurance companies and the Social Security Administration (SSA) require hard data, not just subjective, to verify a person is indeed disabled. Medical assessments, blood work, imaging, and other health records are used in determining whether someone has the mental and/or physical ability to do their job.

COVID patients with severe infections and the most obvious symptoms have been more likely to qualify:

  • Patients who were on ventilators
  • Patients who require physical or occupational therapy
  • Patients who suffered organ failure
  • Patients who had paralyzing strokes

These severe cases are not the only ones who are unable to work because of COVID, however.

The job market and workplaces throughout the U.S. have been negatively impacted by Long COVID. A January 2022 analysis by the Brookings Institution suggested that Long COVID could account for 15 percent of America’s 10.6 million unfilled jobs. Many long haulers can only work limited hours or are not able to work entirely.

Short-term and long-term disability insurance are usually made available through an employer. Depending on the plan, short-term disability is designed to help patients in the immediate aftermath, usually 3 to 6 months. Long-term disability can last years, even until retirement. To qualify for Social Security disability, the disabling condition must have lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months.

SSA and insurance companies are notorious for denying disability claims of all kinds. A 2019 SSA report showed that 66% of claims for Social Security benefits were denied between 2009 and 2018. The novelty of long haulers means there is scant historical data and objective medical tests to support their claims.

Legal Experience in Long COVID Disability Claims

Our team of attorneys at Dabdoub Law Firm focuses solely on representing clients with disability insurance cases. We have experience in aggressively representing Long COVID clients for the disability benefits they deserve. Insurance companies put their financial bottom line first. We put our clients first.

Contact us if you need to apply for disability or if you have been previously denied. Your case is unique. We will get a thorough understanding of the challenges you face. We will interview your doctors and other health care providers and analyze test results and other diagnostics. Our goal is to create a full picture and pointed argument for why you should be granted disability benefits.

Our firm has extensive experience in helping disability clients nationwide with the following:

Send us a message online or call (800) 969-0488 to schedule an initial case consultation.