How Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Seniors With Long COVID Access Disability Benefits

Tired African American male senior napping under gray blanket in bed in front of small table.For seniors, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare access, personal finances, and more have been devastating — especially for those suffering from the serious, chronic symptoms known as long COVID. However, there is some good news.

The federal government now includes long COVID as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Sections 504 and 1557. This new guidance may, in some cases, help seniors affected by long COVID in accessing the monetary support that disability payments offer.

What Is Long COVID?

Long COVID is the occurrence of prolonged or new symptoms that a patient endures after contracting COVID-19. Long COVID causes ongoing health problems and can prevent people from completing routine, everyday tasks. This problem is especially prevalent in older populations; one in four COVID-19 survivors aged 65 and older suffer from the effects of long COVID.

Long COVID impacts sufferers physically and mentally, and can stop a person from functioning normally. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Organ damage
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Malaise
  • Headaches and joint pain
  • Brain fog and lost memory
  • Depression and anxiety

Making a Case for Social Security Disability for a Senior With Long COVID

However, long COVID is not always considered a disability. Seniors with long COVID may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments if their condition meets the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s strict requirements and they can prove that the ailment substantially limits at least one of their major life activities.

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, concentrating, lifting, reaching, standing, sitting, thinking, or carrying out a major bodily function.

In addition, bear in mind the following:

  • Substantial Limitations — The ability of a person to perform a major life activity is “substantially impaired” if their ability to function is restricted in some way. There is no need for the limitation to be permanent, severe, or long-term to qualify.
  • Sequential Evaluation Process — Because long COVID has been newly added to the list of disabilities under the ADA, determining whether a person qualifies for Social Security Disability payments requires a new evaluation. The SSA’s Evaluating Cases with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) provides a sequential evaluation process to determine whether a person qualifies for benefits due to disability from long COVID.

    The process outlines that the applicant:
  1. cannot participate in substantial gainful activity

  2. has a severe impairment

  3. meets or equals a listed impairment

  4. cannot return to their past relevant work

  5. cannot complete any kind of work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy

Attorney Resources

Getting seniors the support they need to navigate the world post-pandemic is vital. For more information about Social Security Disability payments for long COVID, check out some of these resources: