Long covid syndromeEven after testing negative for COVID-19, some people who've had the virus continue to experience an array of debilitating symptoms that can prevent substantial gainful employment. If you've been diagnosed with long COVID and can no longer work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Getting approved for SSDI is rarely if ever easy, but getting benefits for a recently discovered disease like COVID-19, the long-term effects of which are not yet fully understood, can be particularly challenging. Here's what you need to know about applying for SSDI for long COVID, including what medical documentation you'll need and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston attorneys help COVID long-haulers like you fight for the benefits they deserve. 

Understanding Long COVID

While most people who contract COVID-19 recover, an estimated 10 to 30 percent of patients continue to suffer symptoms even after receiving a negative test result. Anyone who's had the virus can go on to develop long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome or Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), even if the initial illness wasn't severe enough to require hospitalization. 

Long-Haul COVID Symptoms 

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting upon standing 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Accelerated heart rate or pounding heart 
  • Problems thinking or concentrating (known as “brain fog”)
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste or abnormal tastes 
  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety and depression 
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders

Post-COVID Syndrome and SSDI Eligibility 

To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have a medically determinable impairment that prevents them from working or engaging in substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers earning over a certain monthly amount substantial gainful activity. Though this amount changes annually, in 2022, most applicants could make up to $1,350 per month (and legally blind individuals could earn up to $2,260 each month) without it negatively affecting their eligibility.

SSDI applicants usually have to meet the specific criteria for a disability in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments or show that an unlisted condition is equally impairing in order to be approved for benefits. Though, as an emerging illness, COVID-19 doesn't appear in the Blue Book, the SSA announced in April 2021 that it would accept the virus as a medically determinable impairment and consider long-haulers for benefits if they can establish their COVID diagnosis with evidence from acceptable medical sources and meet the severity and duration requirements. The SSA will also consider applicants who've developed new medically determinable impairments – or had existing impairments worsen – due to COVID.

Why Getting SSDI Benefits for Long COVID Can Be So Challenging

The SSA won't just take your word that you've had COVID-19 and are now suffering from disabling long-term symptoms; you'll have to provide medical documentation to prove it. Unfortunately, this can be more difficult than it sounds. To establish COVID as a medically determinable impairment, the SSA will only accept a report of a positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2, a diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (such as a chest x-ray with lung abnormalities), or a COVID diagnosis with signs consistent with the virus (such as fever and cough). The results of an at-home rapid COVID test or positive antibody test don't count – and if you contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, before tests were widely available, trying to prove your diagnosis to the SSA can be incredibly frustrating.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

When you're suffering from post-COVID syndrome and are unable to work and counting on getting approved for disability benefits to help make ends meet, there's far too much at stake to go it alone. If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer