National

COVID-19 long-haulers face challenges accessing federal disability benefits

WASHINGTON D.C. — New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows nearly one in five people who’ve had COVID-19 are still experiencing long COVID-19 symptoms.

The federal government now classifies long COVID-19 as a disability if it limits at least one major life activity, but getting those benefits isn’t easy.

For more than two years, Ashley Strobridge said her day-to-day reality has changed dramatically with long COVID-19.

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“If I swallow this, it gets to the point where I cannot breathe at all. I’m like, you know, I can breathe a little bit but it’s so difficult,” said Strobridge, who has long-hauler COVID-19.

Strobridge said she got the virus in February 2020 before tests were widely available nationwide. But she said she had all the symptoms and even her latest medical records show a history of COVID-19.

She applied for federal disability for long COVID-19 in the fall but got rejected.

“It’s ridiculous because I already had other disabilities that I should have qualified for anyway,” she said.

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The Washington News Bureau reached out to the US Social Security Administration and a spokesperson said there were about 32,000 disability claims filed with the agency that mentioned COVID-19 since the pandemic started. The agency said this represents about 1% of the total disability application received during that time.

“While a case may have a COVID-19 flag, it does not mean that COVID-19 is the reason for the disability application or that it affected the outcome of the decision. For that reason, we do not have data on these flagged cases to share,” said a Social Security Administration spokesperson in a written statement.

Meanwhile, Strobridge wants more federal lawmakers to understand their daily struggle.

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“There’ll be days where I have like, tons of energy, like, this is great and then I suffer when I actually take advantage of that, and I go out, and I do things. Then all of a sudden, for the next three days, I’m laid up, and I can’t do anything, because it’s like, that took so much energy,” said Strobridge.

The CDC says the agency is still investigating who gets long COVID-19 and how those symptoms impact our bodies.

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