Can you get disability benefits for long covid?

Yes. Even after testing negative for COVID-19, some people who've had the virus continue to experience a variety of debilitating symptoms that can prevent substantial gainful employment. If you've been diagnosed with long COVID and can no longer work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Getting approved for SSDI is difficult, but getting benefits for a recently discovered disease like COVID-19, the long-term effects of which are not yet fully understood, can be particularly challenging. To learn about how MCV Law evaluates cases and helps our clients win COVID disability benefits, contact us today.

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Here’s what you’ll need to know about applying for SSDI for long COVID, including what medical documentation you'll need, read on below.

While most people who contract COVID-19 recover, an estimated 10 to 30 percent of patients continue to suffer symptoms even after receiving a negative test result. Anyone who's had the virus can go on to develop Long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), even if the initial illness wasn't severe enough to require hospitalization.

Long-Haul COVID Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting upon standing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Accelerated heart rate or pounding heart
  • Problems thinking or concentrating (known as “brain fog”)
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste or abnormal tastes
  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders

Post-COVID Syndrome and SSDI Eligibility

To qualify for SSDI, you must have a medically determinable impairment that prevents you from working or engaging in substantial gainful activity for a period of 12 months or longer. In 2023, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers gross earnings of $1470 or more per month to be substantial gainful activity. (For 2022, the amount was $1350 per month)

If you are working despite your long covid symptoms, and earn at least $1470 gross income per month, you are not eligible for SSD.

SSA does not recognize long COVID on its list of automatically qualifying conditions.

In August 9, 2022, SSA issued an Emergency Message, confirming that Long Covid is a “medically determinable impairment” that must be evaluated under the same five-step framework for any other disabling condition for severity, duration, and the impact of symptoms on a person’s ability to perform a sustained work activity.

To establish Long Covid as a medically determinable impairment, SSA requires objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source (AMS) to establish the existence of an MDI for COVID-19, including long-term effects of COVID-19, which means signs, laboratory findings, or both. SSA will find a medically determinable impairment for COVID-19 when evidence from an AMS indicates:

  • A report of a positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2,
  • A diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., chest x-ray with lung abnormalities, etc.), or
  • A diagnosis of COVID-19 with signs consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, etc.).

The Emergency Message recognizes the novelty of long COVID and that the medical community is still studying the long-term effects of the condition. If long COVID meets the duration requirements of the disability program, a claimant can be approved for Social Security disability based on long COVID alone. You are also eligible for disability if the combination of your impairments related to long COVID and other health impairments prevent you from working.

The results of an at-home rapid COVID test or positive antibody test don't count – and if you contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, before tests were widely available, trying to prove your diagnosis to the SSA can be frustrating.

Building a strong application for long Covid disability benefits can be extremely confusing and difficult. There’s far too much at stake to go it alone. Fortunately, MCV Law’s Social Security Disability team is here to help - we’ve guided hundreds of claimants through the application process, and we’re happy to evaluate your case to determine if we can do the same for you. We work on a contingency basis, so there is no fee unless we win your case.

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