Disability benefits available for COVID long-haulers
In December 2020, she caught COVID and hasn’t recovered since.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that over half of the people with long-COVID are out of work or working fewer hours. And you can get disability benefits for that.
Theresa Jeffers went from climbing mountains and saving lives to losing her breath while walking her dog. She’s a COVID long-hauler.
“The shortness of breath makes it hard to just climb the stairs as well or try to walk,” said Jeffers.
In December 2020, she caught COVID and hasn’t recovered since. Now she’s unemployed. But she was able to get compensated like any other disability.
Early last year, she filed for disability benefits from her employer. And she was approved.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it must limit one or more major life activities.
As a respiratory specialist, Jeffers is required to be able to perform CPR. But with her shortness of breath, she can’t.
“You’ve got to be able to continue to do your work, to save lives. That was my job.”
Long COVID is still a relatively new phenomenon, but 6 News spoke with Jeffers’ doctors to explain the issues COVID is causing in those long-haul patients.
“There’s just not much proof per se that there is a true pathology going on but they’re still very symptomatic,” said Dr. Daniel Van Kalsbeek with Nebraska Medicine.
Her allergy specialist explained: “Because you’re not moving oxygen as well as you should, then activity that you used to be able to do without symptoms causes shortness of breath,” said Dr. Sara May.
They say seeing a doctor is important if you suspect that you have long COVID and need long-term disability benefits.
“If you have a primary care specialist, such as Theresa with me as her asthma specialist, I could tell her breathing significantly changed with COVID.”
Since there’s not one test to see if you have long COVID, the Department for Health and Human Services says: “an individualized assessment is necessary.”
Her doctors wrote on her behalf, attesting to a change in her ability to work and do daily functions. She also documents her own symptoms.
“I document what my vital signs are, and I labeled it post-COVID chronicles.”
With the help of her doctors and documentation, she was able to receive a year’s worth of disability benefits. She’s currently in the process of renewing those benefits and seeking social security disability insurance as well.
The long COVID clinic is at UNMC and doctors say that’s a good place to start if you have persistent symptoms 12 weeks after COVID.
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