I Have Long-Haul COVID-19 Symptoms and Cannot Work. What Can I Do?
If a person becomes infected with COVID-19, they may not realize that they can develop long-haul symptoms. Symptoms may persist for weeks or months after the initial bout of the virus and can become more severe. Part of COVID-19’s unpredictability is related to the development of long-haul symptoms. Health experts are unsure of what exactly leads some COVID-19 patients to suffer from the condition while others make a full recovery.
Much remains unknown about COVID at this point because the condition is still new and foreign. However, those who experience long-lasting health effects face tremendous obstacles in returning to their pre-COVID life.
Long-haul symptoms can make basic tasks difficult for people. Returning to work can be nearly impossible for some. The loss of income that comes with a sudden inability to work can wreck a person’s life. Medical bills, living expenses, and other costs pile up quickly.
Types of Long-Haul COVID-19 Symptoms
COVID-19 affects both the body and mind. Symptoms tend to get worse as the day goes on or with increased physical or mental activity. Some of the long-term physical symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Extended loss of taste or smell
- Joint or muscle pain
Long-haul COVID is also associated with significant cognitive issues, including:
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
COVID-19 causes lasting harm to the body’s organs sometimes too. Some long-haulers experience damage to their heart, lungs, kidneys, circulatory system, brain, and skin. This causes an extension of health problems.
Those who experienced a severe infection and were hospitalized in the intensive care unit will sometimes develop Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS).
How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Relate to COVID-19
Long-haulers can qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which bans discrimination based on disability. It protects workers from negative employment actions, such as being terminated, losing pay or benefits, being demoted, moved, or anything else because they have, or are perceived to have a disability.
Long term Covid symptoms meet the requirements for disability under the ADA when they are pervasive enough to substantially limit one or more major life activities. This standard is broad by design but most of long Covid’s effects could meet it in one way or another. Shortness of breath might cause someone to struggle with walking long distances or completing physical activities. Brain fog could prevent someone from concentrating on tasks. These could easily be major components of many different jobs.
The ADA also grants those with a disability reasonable accommodation at their job so long as it does not cause undue hardship to their employer. If a job requires standing in one place but doing this for long periods is hard for someone with long-haul COVID, their employer could give them a stool or chair to sit on while they work or offer frequent breaks to rest. An individual struggling with brain fog could be given more time to complete tasks that demand concentration.
Long Covid patients who can work in a limited capacity can do so without fear of negative consequences thanks to the ADA’s protections. Violations of the ADA are grounds for legal action.
Long-Term Disability for Long-Haul COVID-19
For those who cannot continue to work at their previous capacity because of their symptoms, long-term disability might be an option but this is complicated. Because this is a relatively new condition, guidelines for eligibility for long-term disability benefits through Social Security are not well established. Decisions on eligibility have been inconsistent so far.
It is possible to qualify for long-term disability benefits for Covid-related health issues but the process is likely long and difficult. The vagueness of long Covid symptoms and its unknown prognosis make the application process harder than it might be for other conditions.
Typically, a condition must be expected to last for a year or longer to qualify for disability benefits but no one knows how long this condition will affect sufferers. The collection of adequate medical evidence to support a disability claim can be hard too, prolonging the process further.
Anyone with long-haul Covid who cannot work is encouraged to apply for disability benefits as soon as possible if they suspect they may qualify. Processing times are long and will not start until the application is first submitted.
How To Seek Relief for COVID-19 Long Term Symptoms
The thought of searching for financial relief when already struggling with health problems and money-related stress is probably overwhelming. Help is available though. State assistance programs can provide aid in some situations. Private charities are often also willing to do what they can. Many different programs for Covid patients have been created since the start of the pandemic to address these very needs.
If your ability to work has been affected by long-haul Covid, you might benefit from the assistance of an attorney. Visit https://www.scbar.org/public/get-legal-help/find-lawyer-or-mediator/find-a-lawyer/ to find one in your area who specializes in disability and employment law.