Joan Bronson of Chalmette Louisiana will be treated for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on August 10, 2021 at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, USA.
Kathleen Flynn | Reuters
Persistent fatigue. Shortness of breath. Migraine headache.
These are some of the symptoms that long-haul Covid-19 sufferers face.
For some, it can make work impossible and they ask: Am I entitled to social security disability benefits?
“We’ve certainly seen an increase in claims due to Covid-related issues, including long-haul vans,” said TJ Geist, principal attorney at Allsup, a company that represents beneficiaries with social security disabilities.
Some applicants have been awarded social security disability benefits based on symptoms related to Covid-19, Geist said. But the majority of them were people with ongoing ventilator complications.
However, not many of these patients have been classified as Covid-19 long-distance drivers.
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The reason: Social security disability is aimed at people who suffer from mental or physical illnesses that last at least 12 months or are likely to last at least 12 months.
“Many of those who have long-distance symptoms have not yet met this permanent requirement,” said Geist.
In fact, President Joe Biden recently decided to recognize Covid-19 symptoms as a long-term disability under federal law.
Although there is a delay in disability awards for Covid-19 long-distance drivers, Geist believes this will increase over time.
However, whether or not disability applications are successful depends on how well applicants follow the rules.
“Apply as early as possible”
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The first thing to keep in mind when applying for social security disability benefits is that it is often a lengthy process, Geist said.
Once an initial application has been submitted to the social security authorities, it can take three to five months to reach a decision. If that initial application is denied, it can take four to six months for the application to be re-examined on an initial appeal, Geist said.
From there, if the application needs to be reviewed at a hearing, it can take up to 12 months to be presented to a judge, Geist said.
“Apply as early as you can because it’s a long process,” said Geist.
A 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office found that approximately 1.3% of applicants filed for bankruptcy while waiting for their appeals and 1.2% died before receiving a final decision.
“Many – especially those without legal counsel – are unfairly rejected on multiple occasions before finally being approved with the help of a lawyer,” said Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow of the Century Foundation. “Countless numbers are spending their savings trying to survive while waiting for an appeal to be heard – and countless others are losing their homes in the process.”
According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 8.2 million disabled workers are receiving benefits. Their average monthly benefit is $ 1,277.
Document your physical symptoms
Long-haul Covid-19 can have a vague range of symptoms, similar to other conditions like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue that have also been approved for social security disability benefits.
However, detecting these types of conditions is more difficult because they usually cannot be diagnosed with a single medical test.
“They are not forgiven so quickly because you have to see them over a longer period of time,” said Geist. “You need a longitudinal history, and it can be more difficult to document.”
The best way to keep a record of your symptoms is to share them with your doctor and have them document what is going on.
For example, if you have migraines, how long do they last? What is your recovery process like?
Keeping track of these details will help if your application needs to be considered by a judge, Geist said.
Pay attention to financial qualifications
While the basic rule of social security disability is defined as a condition that lasts at least 12 months, or is expected to last at least 12 months, that shouldn’t necessarily dictate when you claim benefits.
“If a person does not work and has no income, they can apply now,” said Geist. “There is no set time in which you have to wait to apply.”
However, there are certain financial restrictions that applicants must meet in order to be approved.
First of all, you must have paid so-called FICA taxes into the system. Typically, you must have contributed at least 10 years to be eligible.
In addition, your condition must meet the Social Security Disability definition. It has to be so strong that you can’t work anymore. In addition, a duration of at least one year or with fatal consequences must be expected.
In addition, your income must fall below a certain threshold, which is known as substantial gainful employment. In 2021, that limit for non-blind people is $ 1,310 per month.
Those who haven’t paid FICA taxes can instead qualify for Additional Safety Income or SSI. However, these benefits are means tested and have strict asset limits of $ 2,000 per person or $ 3,000 per couple. (Some beneficiaries receive a combination of Social Security and SSI benefits because they are both eligible.)
While some disabled workers may be tempted to avail of the expanded pandemic unemployment insurance benefits still available in some states, it could affect your chances of disability benefit recognition, Geist said.
When applying for Social Security Disability, you are saying that you cannot do any job. On the other hand, by applying for unemployment insurance, you certify that you are ready and able to work and look for opportunities to do so.
“That can be seen as a contradiction,” said Geist.
Expect longer waiting times
VALERIE MACON | AFP | Getty Images
In March 2020, the Social Security Administration closed most of its personal services.
Even today, she still handles most of her correspondence online and by post.
A recent investigation by the Inspector General’s Social Security Bureau found that there have been major delays in people waiting for application decisions.
It currently takes about 125 days for the agency to process an initial application, Geist said. There is an additional four to six months for applications to be re-examined, he said.
So, if you’re planning on filing a claim for disability benefits, including Covid-19 and related long-haul issues, “the sooner the better,” Geist said.