Q: J.F. from Cincinnati: My mom is a COVID long-hauler who has constant fatigue and migraine headaches. Can she claim Social Security disability because of this? It’s a struggle for her to work day in and day out.
A: This is a tricky one. Because while, yes, it’s possible she could qualify, there are no guarantees she would be approved. The Social Security disability approval process was already quite strict in "normal" times, with less than 40% of applicants granted benefits, according to Time. And now, COVID-19 – like with so many other aspects of life – has thrown a wrench into this already stringent system.
Social Security defines a disability as a physical or mental condition that has lasted (or is expected to last) for at least 12 months, and it must be severe enough that an individual can no longer work. Yet, with many "long-haul" cases, it hasn’t yet been 12 months. Plus, many times, associated conditions (such as fatigue, chronic pain or brain fog) are more difficult to "prove" since they can’t be easily diagnosed with a traditional diagnostic test. So, make sure your mother (and her doctor) is documenting all of her symptoms thoroughly. Having detailed records will likely prove very beneficial in the long run if she ultimately applies for the benefit.
Additionally, to qualify for disability benefits, a nonblind individual’s income must be less than $1,310 a month (for 2021) and, generally, they must have paid into Social Security for at least 10 years.
The Simply Money Point is that if your mother decides to apply for disability benefits, she should do so as soon as possible. The application process can be lengthy, stretching out for months.