Is Long COVID a Disability? SSDI Eligibility Requirements

If the lingering effects of a COVID-19 infection significantly limit your ability to work, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Updated
Edited by Dalia Ramirez

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


The investing information provided on this page is for educational purposes only. NerdWallet, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.

In July 2021, long COVID-19 was recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Social Security Administration (SSA) also considers long COVID a disability that may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits

.

Long COVID, also called post-COVID-19 condition (PCC), is an umbrella term for the lingering effects of the COVID-19 virus after an initial infection. If long COVID causes you significant mental or physical impairment, you may qualify for work accommodations and federal benefits.

Here’s what to know.

Work accommodations for long COVID

The U.S. Department of Labor requires that companies make reasonable accommodations for workers with a disability. These accommodations vary by workplace and the type of job. Examples of accommodations include:

  • Allowing employees to work remotely.

  • Providing flexible scheduling.

  • Updating paid leave policies.

  • Working with an employee assistance program (EAP).

  • Providing education or training to "upskill" the employee into a new position.

Some employers may make accommodations to retain valuable employees even when not legally required to do so

U.S. Department of Labor. Supporting Employees with Long COVID. Accessed Aug 14, 2023.
.

SSDI benefits for long COVID

If you are unable to work because of long COVID symptoms, you may be eligible for SSDI benefits. An evaluation by a medical professional is necessary to determine whether your condition meets the requirements. You’ll also need to have enough work credits and meet five eligibility standards.

Work credits

To qualify for SSDI benefits, you typically must have earned at least 40 work credits, with at least 20 of them earned in the past 10 years. Younger workers may be able to qualify with fewer credits

Social Security Administration. How You Qualify. Accessed Aug 14, 2023.
.

Workers can earn up to four work credits per year. In 2024, you'll earn one credit for every $1,730 in wages or self-employment income. With $6,920 of income, you'll earn the maximum work credits for 2024.

Get even more financial clarity with the NerdWallet app
Track your budget and see all of your finances together in a single place.
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.

Eligibility

The SSA asks the following questions to determine SSDI eligibility:

  1. Are you working? If you make more than $1,550 per month ($2,590 if you’re blind) in 2024, you cannot be considered to have a qualifying disability.

  2. Is your condition "severe?" This includes conditions that significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting or remembering for at least 12 months.

  3. Is your condition on the list of disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of eligible medical conditions that qualify for disability benefits. As of April 2021, long COVID qualifies as a disabling condition under the SSA.

  4. Can you do the work you did previously? If you can perform your previous job, you do not qualify.

  5. Can you do any other type of work? The SSA will take your condition, education and work experience into account to investigate whether you may be able to adjust to a different job.

Benefit amount

  • Your monthly SSDI benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. You can view your estimated disability benefits by logging in to your my Social Security account.

  • The maximum federal disability benefit changes each year because of inflation. The maximum monthly SSDI benefit is $3,822 in 2024. The average benefit is $1,483 per month

    Social Security Administration. 2023 Social Security/SSI/Medicare Information. Accessed Aug 25, 2023.
    .

  • Your family may also qualify for SSDI benefits. Qualifying family members include spouses 62 or older, spouses of any age caring for a child 16 or younger, or unmarried children younger than 18. Older unmarried children also qualify if they were diagnosed with a disability before age 22.

What types of long COVID qualify for disability benefits?

Not all long COVID cases qualify for disability benefits and exemptions. The SSA evaluates each case individually. But according to the ADA, long COVID is considered a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, working or sleeping.

For example, someone who is experiencing long-term memory loss and brain fog due to long COVID may qualify for disability because the condition substantially limits their ability to think and concentrate. There isn’t a test to diagnose or measure long COVID because many of its symptoms are the same as those of other diseases.

How to apply for SSDI

Though you may have long COVID symptoms, you must follow a defined process before qualifying for SSDI benefits. Follow these steps to apply for disability benefits:

  1. Gather your documents, including your Social Security number and proof of age, a summary of your work history and all documentation of your medical history. You can find a full list of required information on the SSA website. If you don’t have all of your documents ready, you can start an application anyway and the SSA will help you fill in the gaps.

  2. Apply for disability benefits online, in person at a Social Security office or over the phone at 800-772-1213. Phone applications are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

  3. Wait for the SSA to process your application. On average, it takes three to six months to process an application for disability benefits.

How likely is it that the SSA will approve my SSDI application?

On average, the SSA approves 31% of disability claims, meaning that about 2 out of every 3 disability benefit applications are denied. Historical data specific to long COVID approvals is not yet available because of how new COVID-19 is.

If your application is denied, you can appeal the SSA’s decision with updated medical information. The SSA will send you a notice with the amount of time you’ll have to appeal.

In the meantime, consider alternatives such as discussing workplace accommodations with your employer and applying for state-specific disability insurance.


Read more about whether these conditions may qualify for disability benefits.


Still deciding on the right carrier? Compare Medigap plans

Get even more financial clarity with the NerdWallet app
Track your budget and see all of your finances together in a single place.
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.
Nerdwallet advisors logo

Enter retirement with confidence. Get unlimited financial advice from a Certified Financial Planner™ for just $30/month.

    NerdWallet Advisory LLC

    AD