While the SSA doesn’t yet list long COVID as an official condition, you can still qualify for monthly benefits and healthcare if your long COVID interferes with your ability to work. In 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) awarded disability benefits to 212,399 workers with respiratory diseases like long COVID.
To help you qualify, we’ll explain how the SSA defines long COVID, when it can qualify for disability, and how to get benefits for long COVID.
Does the SSA consider long COVID a disability?
Yes! Long COVID is a disability if it makes it impossible for you to work for at least one year, according to the SSA.
How the SSA defines long COVID
The SSA doesn’t have an official listing for long COVID in its directory of disabilities (its Blue Book), but you may qualify if you had COVID-19 and your symptoms last for months or years afterward. Long COVID may include symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, and trouble sleeping for an extended period of time. It’s also likely that your condition hasn’t improved with treatment.
Conditions that can occur with long COVID
There are a number of health conditions that you may experience alongside long COVID and that may make it easier for you to qualify for disability benefits. If your long COVID caused or exacerbated any of the following, you may be able to qualify due to these conditions:
An existing respiratory condition that’s worsened, like asthma
You can get disability for long COVID if your symptoms or a resulting condition make it impossible for you to hold a job and will last for at least one year. However, even if your long COVID has caused another condition, qualifying for Social Security disability is challenging. You’ll have to prove that your long COVID meets the SSA’s strict criteria.
You can increase your odds of approval by working with a disability lawyer. They’ll be able to give you advice based on your personal situation.
Criteria for getting disability with long COVID
To be eligible for disability, you need proof that your long COVID causes severe symptoms that keep you from working.
Here are some criteria that may improve your chances of approval with long COVID:
Your symptoms are advanced and documented. You’ve been diagnosed with long COVID, and you have both medical and non-medical evidence that your symptoms are severe, ongoing, and not responding to treatment. This can include documentation from your healthcare provider, information about how your long COVID responds to treatment, and statements from your friends or coworkers.
You have another condition that appears in the Blue Book. The SSA does not list long COVID as an official condition, but it can cause or exacerbate Blue Book-listed conditions. If your long COVID leads to anxiety, depression, organ damage, or other complications, you may be able to qualify for disability through that secondary condition.
You’re over age 50. If you’re over the age of 50, you’ll have an easier time getting approved because you only have to prove that long COVID makes it impossible for you to continue the job you’ve traditionally held. If you’re under the age of 50, you have to prove that you can’t do any job.
Questions to ask before applying
If you answer yes to most of the following questions, you may qualify for disability:
Have I been hospitalized recently?
Do I struggle with long COVID symptoms daily?
Does my brain fog make it difficult to pay attention or focus on tasks?
Do I have any existing conditions that have worsened because of long COVID?
Does fatigue make it difficult for me to work?
If I am under 50, is it difficult for me to do any job, not just the job I already have?
My long COVID meets the criteria. Now what?
If your long COVID meets the criteria and you have documented medical evidence, you’re ready to apply for disability. You can still apply if you’re unsure whether or not you’ll get approved, but the application is lengthy and may only be worth it if your odds of approval are high. Here’s what we recommend:
Apply now if:
You’ve been diagnosed with long COVID AND
Your symptoms are severe, ongoing, and don’t respond to treatment OR
You have another condition that is listed in the Blue Book
Consider waiting and applying later if:
You’ve been diagnosed with long COVID but the symptoms are moderate OR
You’re still at work, even if you’re worried your long COVID symptoms might soon interfere
Probably don’t apply if:
Your long COVID symptoms don’t stop you from working even though they may interfere with your daily life
You’re working, earning near or above $1,400 per month, and don’t plan to stop working
You can also find out whether or not you’ll qualify by taking our free 2-minute disability quiz. If you do qualify, we can connect you with a disability lawyer who can increase your odds of approval. (You’ll only pay your lawyer if you win your benefits claim.)
Which types of benefits should you apply for?
There are two types of benefits programs available through the SSA: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The type of benefit you should apply for depends on your work and income history. If you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years, consider applying for SSDI. If you have no work history and little to no monthly income, SSI may be the better option.
Both programs share the same application, so you can apply for both and let the SSA determine which will give you the better benefits. It’s also possible to receive both SSDI and SSI at the same time.
How much is a disability check for long COVID?
The average monthly disability check for respiratory diseases like long COVID is $1,384.27. But the amount of your personal disability payment depends on your work and income history. Regardless of your condition, the maximum monthly benefit for SSDI is about $3,600, while SSI offers a maximum of $914 per month in 2023.
What if my long COVID doesn’t meet the criteria?
Qualifying for disability is challenging no matter how severe your condition is. Long COVID isn’t a listed condition, so qualifying depends on your ability to prove how severe your symptoms are. But even if you have plenty of evidence, only 20% of people get approved on their first application. Most people who win their benefits need to go through an appeals process.
If you’re over the age of 50 or have another qualifying condition, it might still be worth applying now. The process is long ans the sooner you apply, the sooner you can potentially get benefits. If you’re under the age of 50 and your symptoms are mild or moderate, you might wait to see how your condition progresses.
Whether you apply now or wait, don’t be afraid to appeal your case. Half of the applicants who appeal their case in front of a judge get approved at that stage. Applicants who work with a disability lawyer are also three times more likely to win benefits.
Many conditions are eligible for disability benefits. See what you qualify for instantly.
At the bottom of many websites, you'll find a small disclaimer: "We are not a law firm and are not qualified to give legal advice." If you see this, run the other way. These people can't help you: they're prohibited by law from giving meaningful advice, recommending specific lawyers, or even telling you whether you need a lawyer at all.
There’s no disclaimer here: Atticus is a law firm, and we are qualified to give legal advice. We can answer your most pressing questions, make clear recommendations, and search far and wide to find the right lawyer for you.
Two important things to note: If we give you legal advice, it will be through a lawyer on our staff communicating with you directly. (Don't make important decisions about your case based solely on this or any other website.) And if we take you on as a client, it will be through a document you sign. (No attorney-client relationship arises from using this site or calling us.)