Today I argued my first "long haul COVID" case before a Social Security Administration ALJ. While the outcome is far from clear, one thing is for certain. If one has any hope if getting Title II or Title XVI Disability benefits as a result of Covid 19, their claim must be well-documented by medical professionals.
For many individuals who contract COVID-19, symptoms can linger for months or even years. In today's instance, my client was a 44 year old married woman with two grown children. She contracted Covid 19 in January of 2021. These people, diagnosed with long COVID and often called long-haulers, often find it difficult or impossible to return to work. If the condition is expected to last 12 months or longer or persists for more than a year while substantially limiting one or more life activities, they can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
The process of applying for Social Security Disability can be difficult under the best of circumstances. As long COVID is a fairly recent development, it's more important than ever to have experienced Social Security Disability attorneys on your side. In our SSD practice, our team is highly focused on protecting long-haul COVID survivors. If a person is unable to work or can only work a reduced number of hours, their paycheck will suffer. Disability benefits can help bridge that gap and pay the bills.
What is Long-Haul COVID?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines long COVID — also known as post-COVID conditions, post-acute COVID-19, or chronic COVID — as new, recurring, or ongoing health problems that present four or more weeks after the initial coronavirus infection. Long-haulers can experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Post-exertional malaise (symptoms that worsen after physical or mental activity)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (brain fog)
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (heart palpitations)
- Pain in various parts of the body, including headaches, joint pain, muscle pain, chest pain, and stomach pain
- Changes in sense of smell or taste
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Sleep problems
- Digestive problems and diarrhea
- Mood changes
Long-haul COVID can affect people from all walks of life, young and old. Surprisingly, it's not just a problem for patients who were hospitalized or placed on ventilators. It's possible to develop long COVID even if your initial COVID symptoms were mild.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there is still a great deal we don't know about COVID-19 in general and long COVID in particular. As such, the long-term prognosis for patients struggling with the disease is unclear. What is clear, however, is the fact that many lives and careers are being disrupted.
For some people, long-haul COVID is disabling. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the most significant symptom seen in patients is fatigue. Long-haulers can have a difficult time exercising and even a brief walk will often leave them exhausted. This level of fatigue can be absolutely debilitating — and in particular, can make it difficult or impossible to work.
In some cases, the symptoms may allow COVID long-haulers to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Social Security Administration's definition of disability requires that the patient be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months. To qualify, you must be under age 65 and have worked in jobs covered by Social Security long enough to have earned a sufficient number of credits (varies depending on your age).
Applying for Social Security Disability can be a long process and, in general, involve up to five steps. The SSD professionals at James F. Aspell, P.C. have helped thousands of people successfully navigate this process:
- Submit an initial application to the Social Security Administration.
- If the application is denied, submit a request for reconsideration.
- If the application is denied again on reconsideration, request a hearing before an administrative law judge.
- If you do not agree with the judge's decision, appeal to the Appeals Council.
- If you do not agree with the Appeals Council's decision, appeal to the Federal District Court.
Keep in mind that while most initial applications are denied, the majority are won on reconsideration or appeal. An attorney who knows the system and understands what the Social Security Administration is looking for can maximize your chances of success at each stage in the process. Each of these steps can take months, and there are strict deadlines at each stage. Your SSD lawyer will know these steps and meet these deadlines to keep your claim moving in the right direction.