But some people with long Covid symptoms have had success — even without a positive coronavirus test — if they are able to demonstrate a substantial downturn in their health and ability to work.
Steven Trompeter, 49, was unable to perform his job as an industrial mechanic after getting sick with Covid symptoms, including cough, fever, muscle aches and loss of taste and smell, in February 2020. He applied for disability in December 2020 and was approved six months later.
Mr. Trompeter, a Navy veteran who lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he believed that the extensive medical records documenting his past health and his repeated visits to a Veterans Affairs medical clinic in 2020 helped show how sick he had become, with ongoing “brain fog” and other difficulties.
“I’ve heard nightmares where you have to get denied three times and then get a lawyer to go before a judge, and I didn’t have to do any of that,” he said. “I just had to wait.”
Ms. Tiggemann said a determination of whether people qualify for benefits has more to do with how their symptoms affect their ability to function than the exact diagnosis. So a positive Covid test, while helpful, might not be necessary if the other evidence clearly shows an inability to work, she said.
“No two cases are the same, each case is individual,” she said. “We look at doctor’s tests, medical records, past treatments and whether they have other conditions.”
Long Covid has proved similar to other diseases that can be difficult to diagnose, including myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome — conditions that can also cause fatigue, memory issues and joint pain.