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SSDI and COVID-19: How to apply for disability benefits now

Kiplinger’s Consumer News Service on

Published in Health & Fitness

After a year of challenges and uncertainty, the world is emerging from the pandemic. Even as the economy picks back up and life resumes some semblance of normal, for some people, the long-term impact of the virus on their health may persist for many years.

Doctors and researchers are still working to understand why many Americans are suffering from symptoms months after contracting the virus, as respiratory, mental and other chronic ailments continue to emerge.

If you fall into this category or have another condition that could prevent you from working in the future, understanding how the pandemic will affect the process of applying and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is essential.

As of yet, there has not been a spike in SSDI claims, but as COVID-19 and its variants continue to evolve in terms of health impacts, there are likely to be more individuals considering and applying for federal disability benefits, particularly as unemployment and economic impact benefits taper off.

Distinct from private disability insurance, SSDI is a federal program insuring more than 156 million U.S. workers in the event of a severe, long-term disability that prevents them from working 12 months or longer. This insurance is paid for by workers and employers through FICA payroll taxes, and the program is administered by the Social Security Administration.

Delayed surgeries and checkups related to reduced health care access during the pandemic are likely to increase the severity of illnesses that already exist. This may ultimately lead to an increase in SSDI claims in the coming months, between long-haulers and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

 

Applying for SSDI post-COVID-19

When you’re submitting a claim for SSDI, be sure to provide as much information to your doctor as you can. This can help with the documentation of your disability in your medical records. If you feel comfortable scheduling an in-person appointment, that is the best option, but even if telehealth is the route you’re most comfortable with, make the most out of the appointment by going over your symptoms and any other relevant information with your doctor in detail.

When more information becomes available about the long-term effects of COVID-19, the types and severity of illnesses will determine each individual’s eligibility for disability insurance benefits. But the quality of medical evidence about your condition is a significant determinant of whether you will be approved or denied for Social Security disability benefits, and telehealth visits can’t provide the same quality of evidence as in-person assessments.

Along with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 long-haulers and the factors important for processing their disability claims, the pandemic has made it more difficult for the Social Security Administration to operate at peak efficiency and productivity. Many SSA offices remain closed or only offer limited appointments, and there have been processing delays for SSDI as a result.

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