Senators Call for Disability Benefits for Long COVID Sufferers

Senators Call for Disability Benefits for Long COVID Sufferers

Three Democratic Senators wrote a letter to the Social Security Administration in support of individuals suffering from long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

Concerns about “long COVID” have been part of the last two years of the pandemic. According to the CDC’s website, long COVID, also known as “long-haul COVID,” is a condition that experts around the world are still trying to understand.

More recently, concerns have been raised about the difficulty some sufferers of long COVID have had in obtaining disability benefits. Now, three Senators have written a letter to the head of the Social Security Administration asking her to address the issue. 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a letter last week to Kilolo Kijakazi, the acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. The letter, also signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), called for better communications and policies related to long COVID. 

“We write to urge the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve, formalize, and communicate guidance on the consideration of disability applications for individuals living with post-COVID conditions, also known as ‘long COVID,’” the Senators wrote. “As we continue to address the COVID19 pandemic, we also must contend with the impacts of long COVID. Although SSA has taken steps to facilitate applications for those living with long COVID, existing SSA guidance requires applicants to provide a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis with limited exceptions, which many living with long COVID cannot produce.”

The senators were also critical of the current guidance issued by the SSA.

“We are concerned that, as currently drafted, this guidance may inappropriately limit access to disability benefits for those with long COVID. We urge you to revise this testing requirement to acknowledge that at many times throughout the pandemic, COVID testing has been inaccessible, especially for communities of color, and to do more to ensure individuals experiencing disability due to long COVID have the support they need when applying for disability benefits,” the letter said.

The letter also asked for the SSA to answer certain questions, including how many applications SSA has received for disability cases related to long COVID, how many were approved and denied, and what the demographic breakdown was for those applications. The senators also took issue with the diagnostic testing requirements in the SSA’s current guidance for long COVID. The senators also asked the SSA if it has taken any steps to help those unable to come to SSA offices in person. 

After two years, the SSA plans to reopen most of its offices in the coming weeks, although longer wait times are still expected.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.