Medical professionals have stressful jobs in the best of times, but 2020 brought unique challenges for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Healthcare workers have had to worry about:
- Catching the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19
- Bringing the virus home to their families
- Being separated from their families so that their loved ones remained safe
- Watching their co-workers become patients and fight for their lives
While everything about COVID-19 changes quickly, an early study published in JAMA found that healthcare workers who worked with COVID-19 patients faced high incidents of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress.
What happens to healthcare workers who can’t work because of these health issues? How does our society take care of them?
Social Security Disability Eligibility
Social Security disability is not an option for temporary or situational depression, anxiety, insomnia, distress, or other mental health conditions. Healthcare professionals who experience a few weeks or months of these conditions because of COVID-19 will not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
However, if a medical worker’s mental health condition prevents the healthcare provider from working and is expected to last for a long time, then Social Security disability may be an option.
Several mental health conditions that may affect medical workers are included in Section 12.00 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments. If you meet the requirements of a Blue Book Listing, then you should receive Social Security disability benefits. Some of the applicable listings include:
- Depression (Section 12.04). You qualify for benefits for a depressive disorder if you have five or more of the following symptoms: depressed mood, diminished interest in almost all activities, appetite disturbance with change in weight, sleep disturbance, observable psychomotor acceleration or delay, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, trouble concentrating or thinking, or suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety (Section 12.06). Section 12.06 applies to people with anxiety, panic, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. For example, you may qualify if you have anxiety characterized by three or more of the following: restlessness, tiring quickly, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbances. You may also qualify if you have a panic disorder that includes panic attacks followed by worry about additional panic attacks or disproportionate fear and anxiety in at least two different settings.
- Trauma or Stress-Related Disorders (Section 12.15). To qualify for benefits pursuant to this listing, you must have medical documentation of all of the following: (1) exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence; (2) subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event. This could include, for example, flashbacks, dreams, or intrusive memories; (3) avoiding external reminders of the event; (4) disturbance in mood and behavior; and (5) increases in arousal and reactivity, including things like an exaggerated startle response or sleep disturbance.
In addition to the requirements listed above, all three of these listings require that you have an extreme limitation of one or a marked limitation of two of the following: (1) understanding, applying, or remembering information; (2) interacting with other people; (3) concentrating or maintaining pace; or (4) adapting or managing yourself. Alternatively, you may qualify if your disorder is serious and persistent and documented over two or more years.
Even if you do not meet the requirements of a particular listing, you may still qualify for benefits if you can prove that your documented mental health condition is equal in severity to one of the Blue Book’s listings or that you are unable to work because of your condition.
Don’t Wait to Talk to a Boston Area Social Security Disability Lawyer
As an essential healthcare worker, you have done an extraordinary job helping your community through a global pandemic. If you are now suffering severe health issues that keep you from working, our experienced legal team is here to help you navigate your Social Security disability options. Please call us or fill out our contact form to have us contact you today for a free consultation.