COVID-19 or the Novel Coronavirus upended almost every aspect of everyday life in the United States in the Winter and Spring of 2020. While the virus hit everyone hard, resulting in the closing of schools, restaurants, and other daily activities, it is especially scary for those who are in the at-risk population group. In many cases, this includes adults and children that have life-long medical conditions that impact their ability to fight off a virus. If you may face serious health consequences from COVID-19 and are in the process of obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance payments or have been impacted by the lasting effects of the virus, Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, is here for you.
Attorney Jon Sipes devotes his law practice to those with medical conditions and appeals denials of Social Security Disability decisions to make their lives a little bit easier. He understands the importance of a positive result to each of his clients and works hard to get that result.
Social Security Benefits Explained
Social Security benefits come in two forms: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Eligibility for either program depends on the number of years an individual has worked and paid Social Security taxes. To qualify for SSDI, an individual must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least ten years.
Individuals that have never worked and paid Social Security taxes or have done so but for less than ten years are not eligible for SSDI. Instead, those individuals may be eligible for SSI, which is a need-based program available to the elderly and those who are blind or have a disability.
Because payments under SSDI are based on actual taxes paid, the monthly payments are generally higher than SSI payments. Additionally, individuals approved for SSI are eligible for Medicaid immediately, while those who are approved for SSDI must wait two years to qualify for Medicare.
Social Security Disability Payments in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Social Security Disability Requirements with COVID-19
To qualify for disability-based Social Security benefits, you must have a severe, long-term medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Also, the medical condition must prevent you from performing any substantial gainful activity.
Substantial gainful activity is recognized as performing work that results in earning more than a certain amount of income. In 2020, to remain eligible for Social Security benefits, an individual must not earn more than $1,260 per month.
Many different medical conditions can result in a disability. Some of these may stem from contracting COVID-19 itself. For instance, individuals who have long term respiratory conditions as a result of COVID-19 or were forced to amputate a limb to prevent the spread of the virus may qualify as disabled under Social Security guidelines.
Unemployment and Social Security
Individuals that were recently laid off from their jobs may also experience disabilities that could entitle them to Social Security benefits. Some individuals may become newly disabled after contracting COVID-19. Others may experience medical conditions that result in a disability after being laid off.
If you were employed but have been laid off and are eligible to claim unemployment insurance, it will likely be in your best interest to postpone any disability claims until after your unemployment insurance payments have ended. The reason is that most state unemployment insurance programs require a beneficiary to certify he or she can work and is actively seeking employment. This requirement contradicts the Social Security requirement that an individual is unable to perform substantial gainful activity.
If you are receiving unemployment benefits and would like to pursue Social Security disability benefits, you should speak with an attorney to determine your best course of action.
Types of Disabilities Related to COVID-19
A disability is a mental or physical condition that prevents an individual from performing substantially gainful activity or earning a living. Although being diagnosed with COVID-19 is temporary for most, the virus can have lasting effects on the body. While the long term effects of COVID-19 are still being studied, early findings suggest the virus can cause:
- Damage to lungs that causes long term shortness of breath and respiratory issues
- Long term respiratory diseases that require the use of oxygen
- Damage to other vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, and brain
- Post-intensive Care Syndrome, or mental and physical conditions that impact those placed in intensive care, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder conditions
- Blood clots that can cause a stroke or other life-threatening conditions
- Amputation of limbs to avoid the spread of the virus
- Mental disorders that impact the ability to work, such as debilitating depression or anxiety
Any of these conditions could limit your ability to perform a job and may qualify as disabilities under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines. It is crucial that you speak with a disability insurance attorney to discuss your eligibility.
Preparing for a Social Security Case with COVID-19
If you have experienced any long-term medical conditions as a result of contracting COVID-19 and want to pursue SSDI or SSI benefits, make sure you take steps now to strengthen your case for a finding of eligibility.
If you are currently employed or were employed before being laid off or contracting COVID-19, it is important that you have records of your employment, particularly the functions and responsibilities required to do your job. This information is important because it allows you to demonstrate the type of work your disability prevents you from performing. Part of the eligibility determination hinges on whether you can perform work you did in the past or whether there are other types of work that you could perform. Having accurate records can strengthen your case.
Because proving a disability ultimately comes down to what is in your medical records, it is essential to have medical records that document the progression of your medical condition. When you apply for Social Security disability, the application process requires you to detail your medical treatments, including treatment sources such as the doctor, clinic, or hospital visited.
In addition to having an established history or medical treatment, the information in your medical records is also important. Your records should indicate your functional limitations, such as shortness of breath or inability to perform specific tasks. Make sure to mention these symptoms to your medical provider so that they can include them in your medical file and will reference them when completing any medical professional questionnaires required by the Social Security Administration.
Continue Going to Your Doctor
Eligibility for Social Security benefits requires that the disability be current and continue for at least one year. As such, it is important that you keep all medical appointments to document your disability and continue going even if your condition is not improving with treatment. Having records of your appointments is one way to prove your condition is ongoing.
Consult with a Social Security Disability Attorney
Filing a claim for disability benefits is an essential step in improving your life. Since the application process is technical and specific, it may benefit you to have an attorney assist you with the process. Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, has years of experience helping clients in West Texas successfully obtain Social Security benefits even in the face of denial. Contact Attorney Sipes today to discuss your needs.