Long-COVID Disability Benefits: What Should I Know?

Long-COVID Disability Benefits: What Should I Know?

You may be eligible for disability benefits and accommodations if you have long COVID. COVID-19 long-haulers (patients who are experiencing symptoms for months after initial diagnosis, even when they no longer test positive for the virus) face a variety of health and quality-of-life issues, including financial hardship. Debilitating physical and cognitive symptoms, like prolonged respiratory distress, crippling joint and muscle pain, and chronic brain fog, are just some of the factors that make it hard for them to return to their jobs after they’ve been affected by the virus.

The inability to work can leave long-COVID patients vulnerable to significant financial strain and even destitution. The federal government has designated long COVID as a condition that can be covered by disability assistance, but there are some factors of which you or your loved one should be aware.

Workplace Disability Accommodations for Long-COVID Patients

Disability Benefits for Long COVID Patients

Disability for Long-COVID Patients.
(This image is from Pixabay.)

The Americans with Disabilities Act language has defined the word “disability” is intentionally broad to make sure people who meet the criteria for disabilities can work if they choose to. If you’re battling long COVID and need to work, you can request workplace accommodations if:

  • You meet the definition of disability
  • You work in a company with 15 or more employees
  • You are qualified for the position you’re occupying

If you’re unsure about your eligibility for workplace accommodation, talk to your supervisor or HR department about your options.

What Kind of Accommodations Can I Ask For?

The exact of workplace accommodations for which you can petition will vary based on your current care needs; however, general categories include:

  • Modification of equipment, devices, or environment
  • Job duty restructuring
  • Modified scheduling to accommodate care and rest needs
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Modification of assessments, training materials, or policies
  • Providing readers and interpreters

We’ve learned that fatigue, tired feeling, brain fog, and persistent pain are symptoms of long COVID. Some of the above accommodations can help offset the impact of these symptoms and make work more manageable and productive.

Disability Benefits for Long-COVID Patients

In the simplest terms, you’re eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you can’t work and your illness is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. You can also talk to your internal HR department about getting time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as well as short and long-term disability. If you can document that you contracted long COVID from your job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Be sure to:

  • Apply for Social Security Early – There’s a five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability benefits before you can begin receiving payments. Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to ask about disability insurance, or use its online benefit-eligibility tool.
  • Document Everything – Have your doctor provide documentation of your visits, the progression of your symptoms, and the timeline of your diagnosis. This will help you to expedite your claims and avoid back and forth delays.
  • Do the Math – If you’re collecting short-term disability, it may be enough to sustain you while you heal from your COVID symptoms. Short-term disability payments generally begin right away after acceptance and can last anywhere from a few weeks to two years. These payments are, on average, around 60-75% of your regular earnings.

Long-term disability usually has a waiting period of about three months and is also around 60 percent of your actual earnings. If you’ve been at your job for a year or longer, and you’re able to go out on unpaid leave, you may want to look in the FMLA.

While the policies around disability benefits for long-COVID patients are still being finalized, you can advocate for yourself with your company and government agencies to see stay financially solvent while you are recovering. Responsum for Long COVID is committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources so you can stay informed and empowered.