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Workers’ compensation, SSI, SSDI and long COVID

Most people who contract COVID-19 recover within a few days or weeks. However, a subset of people continue to experience symptoms for months after COVID-19 infection, and some may begin to experience symptoms much later.

This condition is called “long COVID,” and according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), some of the known symptoms of long COVID include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue or unusual tiredness
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Organ damage (heart, lungs, skin, brain)

Given that relatively little is known about the virus, its variants and long COVID, research is ongoing, and the legislature is adapting, state by state and federal level, to provide adequate assistance to citizens and workers affected by the pandemic. As of this time, there is no known cure for long COVID.

Workers’ compensation insurance

The pandemic has presented new questions and unique challenges for policymakers and employers. For example, whether workers’ compensation insurance should cover long COVID. Most states have a dedicated workers’ compensation court system to determine what is protected under that state’s laws and what benefits are awarded to employees who file claims through their employer(s).

Typically, workers’ compensation insurance benefits have been reserved for work-related injuries. Many individuals have contracted COVID-19 at work, and many others have been exposed to it due to their occupations, such as first responders and healthcare workers.

Because it is virtually impossible to determine exactly where an individual contracted COVID-19, the issue of whether an individual is entitled to receive benefits under their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy has become a matter of public policy.

As a result, most states have taken action to extend workers’ compensation coverage to some or all workers impacted by COVID-19.

Social Security Disability benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits you and your family if you have worked a certain amount of time and have paid Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays benefits to you based on financial need.

Both programs require that you meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled,” meaning that your condition “significantly limits your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering – for at least 12 months. If it does not, you do not have a qualifying disability.”

To qualify for SSDI an individual must be unable to work due to a mental or physical impairment lasting at least 12 months or resulting in death.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Due to the recent nature of COVID-19 infections, most people suffering from long COVID are only now identifying symptoms and seeking medical assistance. However, state and federal laws allow individuals to collect workers’ compensation insurance, SSI and SSDI depending on their circumstances. If the individual is determined to be disabled, they are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is in place to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.