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

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New data from the CDC shows that nearly 1 in 5 people who’ve had COVID-19 are still experiencing long COVID symptoms.

The federal government now classifies long COVID 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.

“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.

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 in the fall but got rejected.

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

The Washington News Bureau reached out to the U.S. 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 applications it 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 the daily struggles of those with long COVID.

“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 and how those symptoms impact our bodies.

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