Yes, long COVID may be considered a disability in Texas. In July 2021, the U.S. government declared that lasting COVID symptoms, referred to as “long COVID,” may qualify as a disability under certain sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Since then, the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) has recommended that private employers follow these new guidelines.
Data from The New York Times shows that nearly 7 million people in Texas have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic’s start in 2020. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that between 10% and 30% of people who get COVID may experience long COVID after initial recovery. That leaves many Texans worried about unemployment due to long COVID symptoms affecting their ability to work and whether they qualify for disability benefits.
Government Agency Guidance on Long COVID as a Disability
The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) established that long COVID may be considered a disability under:
- Title II (state and local government) and Title III (public accommodations) of the ADA
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557)
In December 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clarified that a person with a disability due to COVID-19 is protected from employment discrimination per Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act.
This guidance applies broadly to COVID-19 symptoms and does not specifically address long COVID. However, the update states that the guidelines apply to “the varied manifestations of COVID-19” and “regardless of whether the initial case of COVID-19 itself constituted an actual disability.”
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Determining If Your Long COVID Symptoms Qualify as a Disability
The HHS/DOJ guidance states that if your symptoms “substantially limit” you from performing one or more “major life activities,” including work, your long COVID may qualify as a disability. This includes impairments of your respiratory function, psychological and brain function, mobility, and more.
Your long COVID could still qualify as a disability even if symptoms come and go, much like with a chronic illness. When your symptoms flare up, you are unable to work, move around, or focus on an activity. This may qualify as a disability.
Consideration for long COVID as a disability should be based on “individual assessment” of a person’s long COVID symptoms, how those symptoms manifest, and how they impact the person’s ability to perform major life activities.
Can I Get Social Security Benefits if I Have Long COVID?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is developing policies regarding long-haulers who cannot work in “gainful employment” because of their long COVID symptoms. In Texas, you may be able to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if you cannot work because of long COVID.
Since disability is considered on an individual basis, you may need to complete a medical assessment with a physician and document what your symptoms are and how they impact your life, including your inability to work and earn an income.
The SSA typically provides SSD benefits only to individuals who have had disability symptoms for at least 12 months. That means many people with long COVID symptoms may not meet these qualifications for benefits. A Social Security Disability lawyer from Underwood Law Office can help you determine if you meet the requirements for SSD benefits, apply for benefits, and manage any denials.
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Long-Term Effects of COVID-19
According to the CDC, long COVID tends to show a cluster of symptoms that range in severity. Some of the most common symptoms of long COVID include:
- Symptoms that worsen after physical or mental activity
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat or palpitations
- Concentration problems
- Dizziness when trying to stand
- Balance issues
- Pins and needles feeling
- Depression or anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems, like diarrhea and stomach pains
- Join or muscle aches
- Damage to or disease in the kidneys, heart, lungs, skin, or brain
If you have these persistent symptoms months after first testing positive, consider seeking medical attention to document your symptoms. You may also consider working with an attorney to evaluate your medical records and help you determine if you should apply for SSD benefits.
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We Can Help With Your Social Security Disability Claim for Long COVID
At Underwood Law Office, we’re proud to help individuals and families secure disability benefits all over Texas. We know that applying for disability benefits can be a stressful experience, especially for those who have long COVID, an emerging type of disability. That’s why we stay up to date on information from the federal and state government about long COVID and its status as a disability.
Contact us today for a free case review and learn whether you may qualify for SSD benefits in Texas for your long COVID symptoms.