by T.J. Geist
Until the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, most of us typically thought the term “long-hauler” described a person or good transported over a great distance. COVID-19 has expanded the definition: “COVID long-hauler” is commonly used to describe one who has survived COVID-19 but is experiencing debilitating symptoms months later, also called long COVID.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a range of new or ongoing symptoms can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus, and may include different combinations of the following symptoms:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Chest or stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Change in smell or taste
The World Health Organization (WHO), in a recent policy brief, observed that long COVID can affect one in every ten people who have COVID-19. The aftereffects of the virus can affect a person’s ability to work, socialize, or manage daily activities. While more global research is being conducted to fully understand the causes of long COVID and the implications, one thing is clear – long COVID adds medical, social, even economic challenges that negatively impact patients’ lives and care.
Employers may be unable to accommodate long absences or other issues for these individuals, which means stopping work and lost income. Fortunately, long COVID is beginning to receive consideration as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. This, coupled with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a payroll tax-funded federal insurance program, can provide a much-needed lifeline to those individuals unable to work because of long-haul COVID. (Please Note: The Social Security Administration does not provide a medical listing for COVID-19, but the effects of the coronavirus can worsen the severity of an existing disability and/or cause new medical issues involving the lungs, heart, kidneys, neurological system or circulatory system.)
Individuals who have worked and paid FICA payroll taxes are entitled to SSDI benefits if they meet these stringent requirements:
- Between 21 and full retirement age
- Have worked at least five out of the last 10 years and paid FICA taxes
- Unable to work in any capacity because of a mental or physical impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death
- Be under the care of a healthcare professional who can verify severity of medical conditions
In addition to monthly income, individuals who are approved for SSDI receive several other vital benefits, including Medicare coverage, dependent benefits, cost of living adjustments and return-to-work incentives.
The aftereffects of COVID-19 can be devastating, causing not only physical pain, but also psychological damage to those who are suffering and can no longer work. Seeking SSDI benefits may offer some relief to those who are facing this uphill struggle.
About the Author
T.J. Geist has more than 18 years of experience with Allsup and its subsidiaries, and he applies his 15 years of Social Security Disability Insurance claims experience with training and consulting roles, as well an industry expert on Social Security disability topics. Geist holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is a Certified Direct Pay Representative with the Social Security Administration.