Given the global pandemic following the public health crisis from COVID-19, as well as the growing number of cases across the United States, the question becomes, does COVID-19 qualify you for disability? The answer to this question is not uniform to every case, but the answer is not always a definite “no”; it just depends on the situation.
What is required to qualify for Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability is a program that will provide payments for individuals found to be “disabled” as determined by the Social Security Administration. To qualify for benefits, an individual must have been insured under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and have contributed to Social Security.
Eligibility for benefits is governed by the following set of qualifications that an applicant must meet to be found “disabled” by Social Security.
- You Have not reached full retirement age (generally 65).
- You have earned a total of 40 Social Security work credits. Work credits are based on your earnings in a given year. In the year 2020, a work credit is earned for each $1,410 you earn, with the maximum number of work credits being limited to four in one year. In addition to the 40 credit minimum, 20 of those credits must have been earned in the ten years leading up to the date of your application for Social Security Disability.
- Have a “disabling condition” that prevents you from working on a full-time basis. This includes being able to perform your last job as well as any other job available in the National Economy.
These are the main qualifications that are required in order to qualify for Social Security Disability. However, there are several factors that must be considered in order to determine what rises to the level of a “disabling condition.”
What are the requirements for a “Disabling Condition”?
According to the Social Security Administration, a disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a physical and/or mental impairment. Substantial gainful activity is how Social Security determines if an individual is working full-time. The determination is based on income, and if an individual is found to be earning more than the maximum amount ($1,260 per month for 2020), they are considered working full time. In order for a physical and/or mental condition to be considered an impairment, these are the requirements that must be met:
- The impairment must be expected to last for a continuous period of no less than twelve months, or
- It must have lasted twelve months, or
- Must be expected to result in death.
Although this list may not seem like it is difficult to reach, other considerations can be broken down to, does your impairment(s) prevent you from working on a full-time basis? Even if a condition is found to be an impairment, it must also be found that you are unable to work on a full-time basis, specifically due to that impairment.
Can COVID-19 be considered a Disabling Condition?
When it comes to making the determination of whether a certain condition can be considered a disability, it is important to keep in mind that every condition affects people differently. What could be a disabling condition for one individual may not be for another. When it comes to COVID-19, it is possible that it can be considered a disabling condition.
Given that there is still plenty that is unknown about COVID-19, it is still not certain what the long-term effects of the virus will be. Although it is understood that it is a respiratory disease, the long-term effects of the virus are still unknown. This becomes an issue given the requirement of needing to have the impairment for a period of twelve continuous months. Given the current period of illness lasting roughly a few weeks to two or more months, it does not appear that COVID-19 would qualify an individual for Social Security Disability unless the virus was expected to result in death.