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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.
» Learn more: 3 signs you’ll be approved for SSDI
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.
» Learn more: Medicare for people with disabilities
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.
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.
Workers can earn up to four work credits per year. In 2023, you'll earn one credit for every $1,640 in wages or self-employment income. With $6,560 of income, you'll earn the maximum work credits for 2023.
» Learn more: Will my disability benefits change at retirement age?
The SSA asks the following questions to determine SSDI eligibility:
Are you working? If you make more than $1,470 per month ($2,460 if you’re blind) in 2023, you cannot be considered to have a qualifying disability.
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.
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.
Can you do the work you did previously? If you can perform your previous job, you do not qualify.
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.
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. For 2023, the maximum SSDI disability benefit is $3,627 per month, and the average benefit is $1,483 per month .
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.
» Learn more: What other benefits can I get with SSDI?
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.
» Learn more: When to hire a disability lawyer
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:
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.
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.