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Biden Administration Says Long-Haul COVID-19 to Be Federally Recognized as a Disability

On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden administration’s announced that they released guidance aimed to help people who live with long-haul COVID-19.

According to a fact sheet from the White House, this guidance includes information on “where individuals can access resources and accommodations and clarifies the rights for health and educational services and supports.” The following touches on how long haul COVID-19 is recognized as a disability, which means that people can apply for disability benefits for this health condition.

Guidance explaining that long COVID can be a disability under various Federal civil rights laws. The Office for Civil Rights at HHS and Department of Justice released guidance (available here and here) explaining that some individuals with long COVID may have a disability under various civil rights laws that entitles them to protection from discrimination.

A February 2021 research letter published in JAMA Network Open found that 30 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 still had at least one persisting symptom six months after getting diagnosed with COVID-19. People with long-haul COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares that this could include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain

In an article for The Mighty, Caroline Christian  wrote her suggestions for people with long-haul COVID-19 who want to apply for disability benefits. One of her suggestions is to be honest about how long-haul COVID-19 affects a person:

When preparing to make a claim, be direct with employers about accommodations needed, and ensure these efforts are documented. Being honest can also avoid “gotcha” moments by insurance companies who pay private investigators to spy on claimants. If you have better and worse days, be upfront about the variation you experience in your illness, but do not minimize the limit that “bad days” place on the ability to function.

The White House also gave guidance on how people with long haul COVID-19 can better access disability support services. “The Administration for Community Living at HHS released a guide to community-based resources that can help people if they now need assistance to live in their own home, go to work or school, or participate in the community,” they wrote. “These resources can provide information about what is available locally; help people connect to services, such as transportation and personal care attendants; help arrange reasonable accommodations and access vaccinations.”

Image via Getty Images/fizkes