Can Long Haul COVID Be the Basis for a Disability Claim?

Millions of people around the world are COVID long haulers, which means they are experiencing symptoms of the disease many months after having an acute bout of the illness. The Journal of the American Medical Association performed a comprehensive analysis of studies and found that more than half of COVID patients suffer from long-haul symptoms.

While many people have been able to return to work with accommodations, including telecommuting or remote work, others find it impossible to continue working due to long-haul COVID symptoms. Long-term sufferers who cannot return to work may apply for Social Security disability benefits. However, when filing a disability claim, a long hauler may encounter a number of challenges.

If you are a COVID long hauler who cannot return to work, it’s important to discuss your eligibility for disability benefits with an experienced attorney. At The Law Office of Bennett M. Cohen, P.C., our disability attorney in San Francisco, California, can help you pursue benefits if you have COVID long haul symptoms.

Determination of a Long Hauler’s Eligibility for Disability Benefits

Not all workers who experience long-term symptoms of COVID may qualify for disability benefits. In California, to be eligible for disability benefits, long haulers must prove that they suffered from a physical or mental impairment or another medical condition that prevents them from working and earning an income for 12 months or longer.

Seeking disability benefits can be challenging for COVID long haulers because another eligibility requirement to prove is that they cannot perform work and engage in substantial gainful activity or adjust to other types of work because of their long-term symptoms.

Even if you suspect that your long-haul COVID symptoms will keep you from working for at least 12 months, you still need documentation from a treating doctor or practitioner to prove your eligibility for a disability claim. Speak with an experienced disability claim attorney to determine if your long-haul COVID symptoms make you eligible for disability benefits in California.

Disability Benefit Payments for COVID Long Haulers

Many types of symptoms suffered by COVID long haulers are difficult to prove because they cannot be diagnosed with medical testing. While some of the long haul COVID symptoms, including fatigue and difficulty concentrating, may be subjective in nature, they may substantially affect a person’s ability to work. The lack of laboratory proof of the impairment can make it challenging to seek disability benefit payments.

Those who are eligible for disability benefits because of their long haul COVID symptoms may wonder what amount of benefits they can claim. The calculation of disability benefit payments, also known as the weekly benefit amount (WBA), is based on the worker’s annual income. The WBA equals about 60 to 70% of the worker’s wages earned 5 to 18 months before the start date of the disability claim, according to the Employment Development Department in California. The beginning date of the claim will determine the worker’s base period for establishing the benefits amount.   

Documentation and Certification Needed To Get Your Claim Approved

Getting your disability claim approved requires specific documentation and certification to prove your inability to work. If you are suffering from long-term COVID symptoms, including but not limited to fatigue, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, brain fog, and others, you need any of the following to prove your disability claim:

  1. A certification signed by your treating doctor or practitioner (the certification must specify the diagnosis); or
  2. A statement of symptoms if there is no diagnosis of the condition.

When submitting the documentation and certification, the worker seeking disability benefits must also specify the start date of the condition, the estimated duration of the condition, and the license number and/or facility information of the treating doctor or practitioner. The documentation requirement can be met by submitting a written order issued by a state or local health officer. If there is no documentation or certification from a treating physician, practitioner, or health officer, a worker may still be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.

Since many doctors switched to providing virtual care after the COVID-19 pandemic, a worker may wonder if the diagnosis obtained through a virtual examination is still acceptable when submitting a disability claim. While the virtual examination is acceptable, a worker still needs to show documentation and certification of their condition to get the disability claim approved.

Gathering the necessary documentation and records to prove your long-haul COVID symptoms can be a daunting task, especially for someone who suffers from fatigue, concentration problems, breathing problems, and other symptoms. If you are suffering from physical or mental impairments after COVID illness, reach out to legal counsel to help you navigate the disability claims process.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help You

If you are a long hauler who suffers from long-term COVID symptoms following an acute bout of the disease, consult with an experienced disability lawyer as soon as possible. At The Law Office of Bennett M. Cohen, P.C., our knowledgeable attorney will review your unique case and help you understand whether or not you are eligible for disability benefits because of your condition. Mr. Cohen assists clients with their disability claims in San Francisco, California, and throughout the state. Contact our law office to discuss your particular case.

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