Can You Apply for Disability With an At-home Rapid COVID-19 Test?

By Published On: January 13, 2022

On April 16, 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released policy guidance for people with long COVID.2 The first step that people have to take to qualify for benefits involves establishing a medically determinable impairment from COVID-19.

For people who have or had COVID-19, there are three options to do this:

  • A report of a positive viral test for COVID-19
  • A diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (like a chest x-ray with lung abnormalities, etc.)
  • A diagnosis of COVID-19 with signs consistent with COVID-19 (for example, fever or cough)

“All can establish a medically determinable impairment,” Stacy Cloyd, JD, the director of policy and administrative advocacy at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, told Verywell. “So, that indicates that a PCR test is not the only path towards establishing a medically determinable impairment.”

At-home rapid antigen tests would not establish a medically determinable impairment on its own. It’s questionable whether a self-administered test qualifies as “objective medical evidence,” since it’s not evaluated in a lab.

People living with long COVID may have very different experiences applying for disability benefits because the virus affects people’s bodies in different ways.

“A challenge with cases where COVID-19 is the basis for the disability claim is that COVID-19 presents itself in a lot of different ways that affect people very differently,” Cloyd said.

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, people will also have to demonstrate that their condition has a severe impact on their life and ability to work for at least twelve months. If someone goes into kidney failure and needs a transplant, for example, it may be easier to prove that this issue will impact someone for a longer duration of time.

While brain fog can greatly impact someone’s quality of life, it is harder to prove that it will affect a person for at least a year and prevent them from working.

Working With a Lawyer May Help

Even for people who meet the criteria for disability benefits—for long COVID or for another health condition—the process of both applying for and receiving these benefits can be very complicated.

Cloyd suggests that people looking to apply for disability benefits work with a lawyer who can help them navigate the process. Most lawyers will only get a fee if the disability claim is successful.

“Having somebody who understands the process and has handled disability claims before can be very useful in terms of filling out paperwork, submitting evidence, and just knowing what to expect,” Cloyd said.

If people’s claims are rejected by the SSA, whether or not they are working with a lawyer, Cloyd recommends that they prepare for a potential appeal by reading and understanding why their initial claim was rejected.

“I would also encourage people to read the notices that they receive closely so that they understand what’s going on in their cases and any deadlines that are coming up for them,” Cloyd said.

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