Americans With Long COVID Struggle to Make a Living and Get Benefits

Across the U.S., governments have declared an end to pandemic-era protections. But for the millions of people who still suffer from long-term symptoms, the fight is far from over.

Larry Buhl sheds light on the multi-faceted effects of long COVID — a persistence of symptoms brought on by the virus long after it’s gone — that impacts long-haulers’ ability to claim disability benefits or stay employed.

The pandemic has exacerbated numerous disparities in the workforce, Buhl reports in the first of two stories. Jobs where workers are most at risk of COVID— such as leisure and hospitality, in which it’s hard to work remotely — are lower paid and much less likely to accommodate sick workers. 

Part of the problem is that many long COVID symptoms, as defined by thefederal Department of Health and Human Services, are real but vague, and can worsen, or improve, over time. 

And unlike those with well-established disabilities, COVID long haulers have to jump through more hoops. According to attorney Claire Kennedy-Wilkins, insurance companies and Social Security require special tests and lengthy observations to demonstrate ongoing impairment. This makes it much harder for some to qualify for federal disability benefits, Buhl writes.

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