Elizabeth Van Arsdall is a recent graduate of Colby College living in Boston and a native of Washington, D.C. Like so many others, Elizabeth has seen firsthand the effects of Covid and how devastating the illness can be. Elizabeth works to help make sure those struggling with Covid-19 and Long-Covid have the resources they need.
Do you have long-Covid? If you have symptoms of Covid that don’t seem to go away, and they are making it impossible for you to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This is because the symptoms of long-Covid can be so severe that they are, in fact, disabling. If you have worked previously but you cannot work now, and you expect that you won’t be able to work for at least a year because of your long-Covid symptoms, you can apply for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.
What Is Long Covid?
There is not a set definition for what long-Covid exactly is. Generally, long-Covid refers to lasting symptoms associated with Covid-19 that vary in severity. They also may come and go. If you had Covid-19, but your symptoms never really went away, or you started experiencing symptoms that have lasted for months or years following when you actually had Covid-19, you may have long-Covid.
Some of the symptoms associated with long-Covid are:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
- Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles
These are not the only symptoms associated with long-Covid. People who have long-Covid experience different symptoms as well as severity of those symptoms—all unique to the individual. For some people, symptoms like chronic fatigue, respiratory problems, brain fog, joint pain, headaches, and depression can make it impossible for them to work.
Qualifying For Disability Benefits With Long Covid
When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a medical condition that is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. This is because the conditions that are recognized as being disabilities by the SSA, as well as the requirements for each of those conditions, are listed in the Blue Book. Therefore, when you apply for disability, you will need to submit medical evidence showing that you meet the Blue Book’s requirements for the condition (or symptoms) you’re applying for.
It may be tricky to get disability benefits for long-Covid because Covid has not yet been recognized as a medical condition that makes someone eligible for disability benefits. This is because both Covid and long-Covid are relatively new, and we have yet to come up with a concrete and universal definition of what they are. However, just because there is no Blue Book listing for long-Covid, does not mean that you can’t get disability benefits for long-Covid. For people who have long-Covid and find that their symptoms make it impossible for them to continue working, they are able to qualify for disability benefits by meeting the requirements and symptoms of a Blue Book listing for another condition that is either associated with or is a symptom of long-Covid (e.g., muscle and joint pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, etc.).
Qualifying For Disability With Muscle and Joint Pain
If you are experiencing muscle and joint pain as a symptom of long-Covid, and your pain is severe, persistent, and limits your ability to work, you can qualify for disability benefits by meeting a listing in Section 1.00: Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Blue Book. To meet the SSA’s requirements and be eligible for disability benefits due to muscle and joint pain, you must show that you have:
- Major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause;
- Characterized by gross anatomical deformity (e.g., subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis, instability); and
- Chronic joint pain and stiffness; with
- Signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s); and
- Findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s).
Medical evidence to show that you meet these requirements like X-rays and MRI’s should be submitted with your application. Doctor’s notes and other medical records that support your claim can also be included to better support your application.
Qualifying For Disability With Chronic Fatigue
Another way to qualify for disability with long-Covid is by applying for disability for chronic fatigue. Chronic and severe fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of long-Covid.
Severe fatigue can qualify you to be approved for disability benefits but only if your fatigue meets the requirements set by the SSA. More specifically, you must submit medical evidence showing that you have (1) at least four of the following symptoms, and (2) that those symptoms you’ve experienced have lasted for six months or longer to qualify for disability benefits with chronic fatigue:
- recurring sore throat
- atypical headaches
- muscle pain
- marked deficits in memory or concentration
- tender lymph nodes
- pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling
- fatigue unrelieved by sleep, and/or
- illness after exertion, lasting 24 hours.
Medical evidence like blood tests, MRI scans, PET scans, memory tests, and doctor’s notes are necessary to prove that you meet the SSA’s requirements.
Applying For Disability Benefits
Ultimately, the key to being approved for disability benefits for long-Covid is in the way in which you present your claim to the SSA. You will need significant medical evidence of your long-Covid symptoms.
Applying for disability benefits is easy through the SSA’s website. You can start the application online, but you may need to visit your local SSA field office to finish the application and submit your medical records.