When Josephine Cabrera Taveras contracted covid-19 in the spring of 2020, she did not anticipate that the virus would keep her out of work for two years and her The family is at risk of deportation.
Taveras, a Brooklyn, New York, mother of two, said her bout with long-term COVID-19 meant dealing with debilitating symptoms, from breathlessness to arthritis, that made her Unable to return to work as a nanny. Unable to work—and without Social Security disability insurance or other government help—Tavilas and her family faced a mountain of looming bills.
“We could lose our apartment because our 32-year-old Taveras was denied her Social Security disability assistance application last fall, but she is appealing .
Even before the covid-19 pandemic, people were caught in the cracks of a time-consuming and unwieldy system. People faced years-long wait times, inadequate legal support, and a lack of advice on how to Clear guidance on proving one’s disability – According to the Department of Health, the challenges of the healthcare system not having a uniform procedure for diagnosing long-term covid are compounded by experts and disability lawyers.
Biden administration pledges support for chronically ill COVID-19, but patient advocates say many are struggling to get government help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broadly defines long-term covid as one that may last “weeks, months or more “A series of ongoing health problems” for an extended period of time. This description includes people who are unable to work, such as Taveras, as well as those with less severe symptoms, such as chronic loss of smell.
Social Security Administration has identified About 40,000 disability claims spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann said that “included at some point showing signs of coronavirus infection.” Of the more than 1 million disability claims waiting to be processed by Social Security, there are How many people suffer from long-term COVID-19 is unknown.
About 5% of new disability claims have been filed in Allsup, Illinois in recent months – says TJ Geist, director of the company, headquartered The company that helps people apply for Social Security involves people dealing with covid. Other companies report similar numbers.
Long waits for disability assistance often end in denials, partly due to prolonged COVID-19 exposure Patients do not have the extensive medical evidence that federal officials require, Geist said. There is no standard process for diagnosing long-term covid. Likewise, he said, Social Security “has not provided specific guidance to government officials on how to evaluate covid claims.”
A recent report by the Brookings Institution estimates that 2-4 million people are unemployed due to long-term covid. A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in September puts the number at 500,000.
Advocates say many long-term COVID-19 people have not realized they need government benefits and may start applying soon.
“I don’t understand I was disabled for four years , because my abilities fluctuate a lot,” said Alison Sbrana, a patient advocate for Body Politic, a longtime COVID-19 support organization. under with long term covid Symptoms are similar and have been receiving social security disability benefits for several years.
“If I apply my timeline to people with long-term covid, even those who got sick in early 2020, we won’t have a full picture of their ability to work until 2024,” she said.
In July 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services officially recognized long-term covid as a disability. After expanding awareness, the department and the White House released a report in August 2022 summarizing the “services and supports” available to long-term covid patients and others who have been chronically affected by the pandemic.
But gaining support is not as straightforward as the White House announcement suggests. First, the July 2021 guidance recognized chronic COVID-19 under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but did not extend to the Social Security Administration, which runs the benefit program.
Under the ADA, long-term COVID-19 patients can still work under the ADA, says Juliana Reno, a New York attorney who specializes in employee benefits. Jobs may require employers to provide accommodations, such as break spaces or more. Flexible working hours. However, Social Security has stricter standards: To get disability coverage, people must prove they are too debilitated by long-term covid symptoms to work.
“The application process is very demanding and very confusing for applicants and patients,” Sbrana said. “It also all depends on whether you have a substantial trail of medical evidence.”
Most applications are rejected in the first round, according to Sbrana and other advocates. Patients typically appeal the decision, often resulting in a second denial. At that point, they can request a court hearing. The entire process can take a year or more and often requires legal aid.
The pandemic has extended these wait times because Social Security offices are closed and not shifting quickly to remote operations. Plus, common symptoms like brain fog can make it difficult to fill out online applications or spend hours on the phone with officials.
Long-term COVID-19 patients hospitalized with severe symptoms can file paperwork for their stay and are more likely to receive benefits, Geist said. But for people who are initially less ill, or who have “invisible symptoms” like brain fog and fatigue, it’s harder to document, Geist said. Finding a doctor who understands the condition and can sign off on the symptoms can take months.
Amanda Martin, a longtime COVID-19 patient and advocate, was one of those workers who lost. Martin contracted the virus while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Navy in April 2020 and lost that job when they couldn’t recover quickly.
At first, unemployment benefits offered support, but Martin’s symptoms — including severe fatigue and brain fog — continued. More than two years after his initial infection, Martin remained “on bed rest 90 percent of the time,” they said. Martin receives food stamps and Medicaid, but has no help paying for other necessities, such as gas. Their application for federal disability benefits has been denied twice.
“I’m currently in the [application] process for a year; I have 8 to 11 months left,” Martin said. “I have $50 in my savings account.”
The situation is made even more dire by the fact that many people with long-term COVID-19 do not have the financial means to hire a lawyer or a doctor to help them with paperwork.
Patient advocacy groups are pushing for a more efficient application process, specific guidance for officials evaluating long-standing covid cases, and faster eligibility for Medicare coverage after a disability application is approved. (Typical wait time is two years.)
These organizations also serve as support groups for long-term covid patients, sharing resources and ensuring they are not alone. Some organizations, such as the nonprofit Blooming Magnolia, are even raising funds to distribute directly to those with long-term COVID-19. But patients say those efforts have not achieved the scale of funding needed.
Brooklyn’s mother, Tavilas, said she knows many others who are struggling with similar issues. “We’re trying to get support from the government, but we’re not getting it,” she said. Taveras set up a GoFundMe page to ask for support for her family.