As a general rule, Social Security Disability or SSI disability benefits are only available for individuals having long term symptoms, meaning that the person’s inability to work must last for either a minimum of 12 months or be expected to result in death within 12 months. Fortunately, for most COVID-19 patients, although the symptoms of COVID-19 can be quite severe the symptoms are not usually expected to last for 12 months or result in death within 12 months. Of course each person’s situation varies based upon a number of factors, including other medical conditions that are worsened by COVID-19.
In some cases, with so-called “long haulers”, the ongoing, long term effects of COVID-19 result in a variety of physical symptoms, including severe fatigue and shortness of breath, and sometimes mental conditions including impaired memory and cognitive functioning, anxiety and depression. In these cases, where the individual is having these long term physical and/or mental symptoms, the person may be eligible for Social Security Disability and/or SSI disability benefits. The Social Security Administration has no special rules that provide disability benefits for individuals with long term symptoms from having COVID-19, but the criteria for disability can be met through medical documentation of their disability, just as with other disabling medical conditions.
In filing a Social Security Disability application, it is important to remember that the diagnosis, or medical cause of the person’s symptoms, is not usually the focus. The Social Security Administration rarely debates whether a person has any specific medical diagnosis. Instead, the focus is on the medical and other evidence documenting what symptoms are ongoing, what impact do the person’s specific symptoms impact have upon their ability to engage in the physical and mental requirements of full time work, and whether the symptoms have lasted for twelve consecutive months.
The basic question in almost every Social Security Disability claim is – what symptoms and limitations are documented by the person’s treating medical professionals. The Social Security Administration looks at the medical evidence concerning all of a person’s medical conditions, both physical and mental, to determine the person’s ability to either do their past work or other full time work. With mental impairments, the issue is still the same as with physical disabilities – what is being documented by the treating therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. Regardless of whether the person’s impairments are physical, mental, or both, it is up to the individual to prove their disability claim through medical evidence that establishes a basis for the person’s symptoms, and documentation on the severity of those diagnosed medical conditions, to establish that the person requesting benefits has specific limitations that render them unable to sustain any full-time work activity. In determining whether other full time work is available, the individual’s age, education and skills acquired through their work experience are also considered.
With cases involving COVID-19, as in any other case, we always review each new client’s situation with compassion, and also with the goal of providing our best legal advice, based upon our extensive experience and expertise in the field of Social Security Disability law.