Residents undergo a Covid-19 PCR test at a testing site operated by the Centers for Disease Control, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and eTrueNorth in Washington, DC, January 5, 2022.
Eric Lee | Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
When Christopher Perry got sick in July 2021, he thought he just had a bad cold.
But after Perry’s adult son found him unconscious in his living room, he was rushed to the hospital and put on life support for Covid-19.
A diagnosis of respiratory lung failure has been linked to long-term health consequences.
Perry, 44, who now lives in Newport News, Virginia, can only walk short distances and gets tired quickly. His breathing difficulties lead to trips to the emergency room at least once a week.
“I started crying and couldn’t breathe,” Perry said.
His weight, blood pressure and blood sugar are elevated and he requires medication. He is also receiving respiratory therapy and oxygen therapy.
“It’s all they can really do,” said Perry.
Perry’s condition prevented him from resuming his former full-time job at the NASA steam plant, where he climbed ladders and maintained boilers.
Initially, he was able to obtain short-term disability insurance through his employer and then long-term disability insurance. Today, after a “very long and tedious process,” Perry relies solely on Social Security disability benefits for his income, and his monthly checks are about $1,600 a month.
“I didn’t know Covid would do all this,” Perry said.
To date, the Social Security Administration has flagged about 44,000 disability applications that contain references to Covid-19, but that is not necessarily the primary reason for the application. This represents only about 1% of disability claims received since the agency began tracking claims.
However, the prolongation of COVID-19 may lead to an increase in future disability benefit applications.
Applying for federal benefits can take months
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, up to 30% of Americans infected with Covid have developed long-lasting symptoms, affecting as many as 23 million people.
According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, Long Covid has put an estimated 2 to 4 million Americans aged 18 to 65 out of work.These lost wages could amount to about $170 billion annually. could potentially reach $230 billion, nonprofit public policy organizations estimate.
To replace lost income, patients usually take out short-term or long-term disability insurance if they already have coverage.
A person who is expected to be unable to work for at least 12 months or to die may seek benefits through either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Income.
Social Security disability benefits are generally available to workers who have earned sufficient credit through payroll taxes. Usually 40 credits, but younger workers may qualify for less. In 2023, one credit will equal her $1,640 wage or self-employed income.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal benefit available to people with disabilities who may not be eligible for Social Security Disability based on their work records.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average wait time for Social Security’s first disability determination increased during the pandemic, reaching a record high of 6.6 months in August. Over one million disability claims are pending with the state’s disability determination service.
The federal disability benefits application process is lengthy. According to Andrew Wyrum, attorney and president of Pandemic Patient, a non-profit patient advocacy group that helps COVID-19 patients get the services they need, this could leave some with no other income available. Patients are in desperate financial situations.
“Some people continue to have only one hope of benefiting from SSDI, it takes a six, eight or 12 month process,” says Wylam.
In the meantime, Wyrum has watched these patients deplete their savings, cash in their investments, and liquidate their fortunes, but they also know that Social Security disability benefits will eventually become available and help them survive. I am hoping for
“It’s very depressing and really heartbreaking to see people go through situations like that,” Wyrum said.
There is also no guarantee that applicants will succeed at the end of the wait. Between 2011 and 2020, the Social Security Administration’s “coverage rate” of disability claims averaged 31%. Disability requests, on the other hand, were denied on average at 67%.
“Invisible” Symptoms Increase Difficulty
Allsup has been working with individuals who have applied for Social Security disability benefits or are challenging their claims, and according to the company’s main backer, TJ Geist, Covid or long Covid-related We see about 4% to 5% of cases each month.
According to Geist, the most successful applications include more serious cases. Often these cases required hospitalization and ventilators, resulting in serious long-term health consequences such as organ failure.
Allsup, working with NASA, helped Perry approve an application for Social Security disability benefits.
“The more difficult cases continue to be cases with invisible long-term symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and depression,” Geist said.
“And unfortunately, they’re getting harder to get approval for,” he added.
My advice in those situations is to make sure your doctor tracks all symptoms, documents them, and has a complete medical history.
A major proponent of Allsup
These cases can be successful, Geist said, but they take time. It may take him 6-8 months to decide on the first application. And if an appeal is required, it could take him up to six months. And if it goes to hearings, it could take another year or so.
“It could take as long as three years for the public hearings to reach a verdict,” Geist said.
When Perry was applying for Social Security disability benefits, he had to fill out tons of forms asking everything from how far he could walk without panting to whether he could cook his own dinner. I didn’t.
Approval took about six months and would likely not have been possible without the help of a lawyer.
Keeping a careful health record can also be helpful, Geist said, especially for “invisible” symptoms associated with long-term COVID-19.
“My advice in that situation is to make sure your doctor tracks all your symptoms, documents them, and has a complete medical history.
“It can really make or break a Social Security Disability case,” he said.
“No one sees us”
For patients and health care providers, the looming question is how long the disease will last. Social Security disability benefits are intended for long-term conditions.
“Many people with COVID-19 want to work, and they want to work,” said Alice Burns, associate director of Medicaid programs and Kaiser Family Foundation uninsured. It’s the work environment that exists,” he said.
Adele Benes, 57, was “very healthy” when she was exposed to Covid while working at a Chicago-area hospital in 2020. Now, 26 months later, she still suffers from debilitating symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and cognitive impairment. She led to frequent trips to the emergency room.
Adele Benes continues to struggle with symptoms after contracting Covid-19 in 2020.
Courtesy: Adele Benes
To improve her condition, Benes has tried everything from off-label treatments to hypnosis. I thought it would kill me.
“It was an overwhelming feeling,” Benes said. “Why can’t you die in such pain?”
Benes applied for Social Security disability benefits in February and is still awaiting a response. But what she wants most is to regain her health and return to her normal life.
She weeps as she remembers her previous job as an ultrasound technician where she was able to help sick patients. “It was a pleasure,” she said.
The hardest part is knowing there is no cure.
“It’s a crazy disease, invisible, because we’re all hiding at home,” Benes said. “No one is looking at us and from the outside we look normal”