Recently, a reader wrote in to ask about getting help for post-Covid syndrome since she’s now unable to work. “I’ve been out of work since October 2020 when I was hospitalized with blood clots thanks to Covid. And I still need oxygen now! Is there something to help people that survived Covid, but now have long-term health issues?” This is a great question. We did some digging to learn whether post-Covid syndrome (a.k.a. “long Covid”) could potentially qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
How the Social Security Administration Evaluates Disability Claims
First, you should know that your health issue is not the main thing the SSA looks at when evaluating your claim. Instead, they first check to make sure you meet all non-medical (i.e., “technical”) requirements to qualify for benefits. Here’s what they look for, in order:
- Have you worked recently and enough years while paying Social Security payroll taxes? In other words, did you work 5 in the last 10 years full-time and deduct FICA taxes from every paycheck? If not, the SSA automatically rejects your application for SSD benefits.
- Are you currently receiving any monthly Social Security benefits? They ask this question because you cannot draw disability if you already get benefits on your own work record. If you get any of the following payments, then you cannot qualify for SSD benefits:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Regular Social Security checks that begin at your full retirement age
- Early Social Security retirement (these payments can start at age 62)
- Are you still working and making at least $1,350/month at your job? To be blunt, if you’re still working when you apply for Social Security disability, the SSA won’t award you benefits. That’s because disability only covers those who cannot work in any job for at least 12 months in a row. Even part-time work could be enough to make them reject your claim. However, there is some good news: Your spouse or partner’s income doesn’t count towards that $1,350/month income limit. Only your own paychecks count when checking whether you meet the income threshold.
If you pass all these non-medical SSD eligibility requirements, then the SSA moves on to reviewing your medical problems.
How the SSA Defines “Disability” Isn’t What Most People Think
After passing the non-medical requirements, the SSA will review your health problems. The “SSA Blue Book” is a list showing what illnesses and injuries they think might keep you from full-time work. Unfortunately, neither Covid nor post-Covid syndrome appear anywhere in this listing.
But don’t give up just yet! Millions of people today get disability benefits for health problems that aren’t in the Blue Book. Here’s how they do it:
- They prove their symptoms or health issues are basically identical to something the SSA does count as a disability. For example: If you still need oxygen for post-Covid syndrome, the SSA might evaluate you under Section 3, Respiratory Disorders.
- Listing every diagnosis, medication, and symptom on your claim shows their combined effect on your health. This is a winning strategy for most people trying to get on disability benefits. In fact, it’s worked for 62% of people approved for SSD in the last 10 years.
- They have a Social Security attorney file their claim paperwork instead of applying on their own without legal help. This step costs you nothing out-of-pocket and nearly triples your chances of getting SSD benefits.
- Their doctors complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form that shows how health issues limit claimants’ ability to work. The SSA doesn’t care how much pain you’re in or which post-Covid syndrome symptoms you have. Instead, they want to know: Will your health problems last for at least 12 months, or result in your death? If yes, how do those problems specifically limit your ability to work and function on a day-to-day basis? The RFC form and convincing medical evidence is key to proving you qualify for disability benefits!
Now that you know these key tips for SSD approval, let’s review some common post-Covid syndrome symptoms.
What Post-Covid Syndrome Symptoms Do Most People Have, and for How Long?
Researchers who studied post-Covid syndrome found 65% of respondents still had symptoms at least 7 months after testing positive. Out of 3,762 respondents, 2,454 said they experienced about 14 different post-Covid syndrome symptoms over six months later. Here are the post-Covid syndrome symptoms they suffered most often during month 7:
- Fatigue – 80% (73% said they felt much worse after doing any kind of physical activity, and 54% after exercising)
- Trouble concentrating/thinking clearly (i.e., “brain fog”) – 58.4%
- Loss of taste or smell – 56%
- Headaches – 54%
- Difficulty remembering things – 51%
- Sleep problems/insomnia – 44%
- Muscle weakness/pain – 42%
- Heart issues (i.e., rapid heartbeat, myocarditis, Post-Orthostatic Tachycardia or SVT) Syndrome/POTS) – 37%-42%
- Shortness of breath – 40%
- Dizziness – 38%
- Speech/language problems – 37.5%
- Joint pain – 37%
In addition, 86% of respondents across all age groups said mental issues from post-Covid syndrome impacted their ability to work. A little more than 45% of post-Covid syndrome sufferers were working reduced hours seven months after they got sick. And 22.3% of the study’s respondents were not working because their symptoms made them too sick to hold down jobs.
What Evidence Best Proves Your Claim for Post-Covid Syndrome?
You need your positive Covid test from back when you first got sick to prove you now have post-Covid syndrome. If you don’t have any records showing the date you tested positive, try asking your doctor. An at-home rapid test is not enough evidence to show the SSA, and testing positive for antibodies now isn’t, either. Instead, you need a PCR test with your name and date showing when you originally felt ill with Covid-19. Be sure to include copies of your lung X-rays or other relevant diagnostic tests/scans, if possible. The SSA wants to see evidence of when you first got Covid and how long you’ve had post-Covid syndrome symptoms.
Did your job let you go because you couldn’t keep up with work tasks or some other reason related to your symptoms? Then include copies of those documents when you submit your SSD claim. These could potentially include things like termination letters, a voicemail or email from your supervisor, etc. Warnings about showing up late or missing work shifts without giving enough notice could also work in your favor. Letters from friends, your doctor, relatives, or your spouse detailing how your health issues have impacted your daily life may also support your case.
Bonus Success Tip: Start keeping a post-Covid syndrome symptom diary right now. Tracking how your symptoms limit your ability to do daily tasks is great evidence to submit with your SSD claim!
Who Is Most Likely to Develop Post-Covid Syndrome?
As much as 30% of people diagnosed with Covid-19 are at risk for developing post-Covid syndrome. Recent studies show the combination of issues below is 75% accurate at predicting who will develop post-Covid syndrome:
- People with a history of asthma, severe seasonal allergies, or other allergy-related illnesses
- Middle-aged people
- Those whose bloodwork shows marked decreases in two different immunoglobulins (IgM and IgG3), which are antibodies your immune system produces to fight infections
However, it doesn’t matter how sick you got with Covid or if you needed hospitalization. Many people who had zero Covid symptoms while testing positive can still develop post-Covid syndrome, including children.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Today, the SSA can take anywhere from 6 months to 2+ years to approve your disability claim for benefits. If you can’t afford to go that long without any income, why not get a disability lawyer to file your application? You can sign up for a free, no-obligation paperwork review by clicking the button below today!
People who qualify for legal assistance through our website typically get a lump-sum payment totaling over $10,000 plus monthly benefits. Those who apply on their own usually appeal 2-3 denials in court before they get their first SSD payment. In fact, 4 out of every 5 disability appeals that win have legal assistance. Every disability lawyer in our network offers contingency-based help. That means if the SSA doesn’t award you benefits, you pay $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.