Can COVID-19 patients qualify for federal disability?

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – While many people get better after contracting COVID-19, some experience new or recurring symptoms several weeks later. The Biden administration is now recognizing long COVID as a disability, offering aid to those in need.

For people experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19, they may now qualify for disability under federal civil rights laws if it “substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Of the nearly 2 million COVID patients, research suggests about 23% of people have developed at least one “persistent or new” medical condition after their initial diagnosis.

Marilee Moon said she’s among those who never fully recovered after becoming infected with COVID-19 one year ago this week.

“I spent probably six months on my death bed,” she said. “I was so ill that I never went back to work after that.”

Long COVID is a condition described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as physical or mental problems that arise four or more weeks after contracting the virus.

“The worst one has been insomnia,” Moon said about one of her long-term symptoms. “I have chronic fatigue, brain fog, mast cell activation.”

Moon has struggled to gain control of her life again and said it’s impacted her ability to work.

“My work was great, and they were patient with me, and we were hoping I’d be able to go back, but I wasn’t able to,” she said.

And the last year has proven to be tough for her.

“It’s been a horrific journey, it’s hard to do anything in the condition I’m in, because like, I’m somebody who can’t even make my own food,” she said.

Although her employer has worked with her, she said getting approved for disability has been a challenge – and even scary at times.

“It’s like living in fear every day because without that benefit, we would lose our house and I won’t be able to have the medical care that I need,” Moon said.

While an individual assessment is necessary, President Biden’s federal disabilities may help those suffering from long COVID.

“When I saw the article come out, I just cried…it’s not just for me though, there are so many people who are suffering with long COVID,” she said. “It’s a huge thing for people who are struggling and whose lives – through no fault of their own – were completely changed.”

Moon said this announcement brings her hope for those like her who have not been able to fully recover from COVID-19.

She said she hopes one day to be able to return to work.  

Moon told ABC4 News she recognizes conversations about getting the vaccine can be controversial, but she hopes people will get it.

“Having had COVID twice, I can tell you as someone who was scared previously of vaccines, that you do not want to get COVID, you do not want long COVID to be in your life,” she said teary-eyed.

For Utahns living with long-term side effects of the virus, they can join a Facebook support page, Utah COVID-19 Long Haulers.

The page has 3.3K members. ABC4 News reached out to the Utah Department of Health to find out how many Utahns have long COVID; a spokesperson said they do not track that information.

The University of Utah Health recently opened a post-COVID clinic. A spokesperson said they do not have data available as to how many people have long COVID.

Information is available online about how to apply for disability funding.

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