Numerous issues have surfaced in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them relate to “long-haulers” the people who continue to have long-term health issues weeks and months after being stricken with the virus. Many within this group are health care workers who had regular exposure to the virus in their workplace while during the early stages of the pandemic.
Despite the fact that long-haulers have experienced a wide range of complications such as memory issues, fatigue, respiratory issues, body pain and depression, the question is whether they qualify for some sort of disability benefits. Since this is somewhat uncharted territory, the short answer is that we do not know yet. But things may change.
Some not even hospitalized
Long-haulers often no longer test positive for the virus but continue to face medical challenges. While murkiness currently prevails in important issues on this subject, the evidence shows that a significant number of people comprise this group. According to a UK study, roughly 10% of people who have had COVID-19 also suffer from prolonged symptoms.
And, in another strange twist, many of these long-haulers initially experienced mild to moderate symptoms, however, their illnesses did not lead to prolonged hospitalization or even any hospitalization.
There have been reports of some workers seeking Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. But it remains unknown as to whether they qualify for these benefits because to secure SSD benefits, workers must be incapacitated for a minimum of a year. However, long-haulers may qualify for certain protections under the Americans with Disability Act.
Maintain careful records, persevere
If you continue to face long-term health challenges due to COVID-19, protect yourself in ways that may include:
- Maintain detailed evidence and documentation stemming from your illness.
- Consider utilizing the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This move may buy you time as you assemble applications for other disability programs.
- Consult with a disability lawyer, who may steer you toward other solutions that you had not considered.
- This is your life, and always advocate for yourself.
You face one of the biggest health challenges in your life. And while the government, employers and system try to figure out things, you must not become complacent. Take initiative and stay up to date. Your voice and the voices of others can lead the way.