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An Legal professional’s View: Social Safety failing COVID-19 lengthy haulers

There is still a lot that we do not know about what is known as the “long COVID” or “post-COVID-19 syndrome”. As with COVID-19 itself, symptoms vary widely, from shortness of breath and fatigue to permanent kidney and heart damage.

While most people recover from COVID-19 in a few days or months, long-distance drivers will experience symptoms for weeks or even months after receiving a negative test result for the novel coronavirus.

It’s unclear how many people infected with COVID-19 will become long-distance runners, but the current estimate suggests that between 10 and 30% of all people infected with the virus are affected.

I got infected with COVID-19 in October last year. Although I had a milder case than many others, it still took me about two months to contract the virus, to fully recover from the symptoms of shortness of breath and memory fog.

Unfortunately, others are not so lucky. Many long distance hauliers even find it impossible to return to the jobs they had before the infection.

President Joe Biden acknowledged this earlier this summer at a press conference marking the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He pointed out that in some cases, long-term COVID-19 can reach the level of disability that requires placement in the workplace.

However, the Social Security Administration, which millions of Americans rely on for income replacement when they can no longer work, has remained practically silent on the issue of Covid-19 for the long term.

Social security has a long-standing rule that in order to be eligible for disability benefits, an applicant must have an impairment that has or is expected to last for 12 consecutive months. This has made it difficult for many long distance drivers to apply for a disability.

We are now seeing long distance COVID-19 drivers meeting this requirement; and in December the agency issued an emergency memorandum saying it will report disability claims claiming disability due to long-term COVID-19 – but nothing else has come out of how those claims will be verified .

We do not know what medical records or specific symptoms related to COVID-19 are required over the long haul to prove that a person is disabled under social security regulations. Instead, the agency tries to put the disease into rules that regulate other medical impairments, leaving many long-distance drivers unable to work and without a source of income.

This is yet another failure of the federal government’s response to the pandemic. COVID-19 is a novel disease with novel long-term symptoms and social security must immediately introduce new rules to better serve those who are no longer able to work due to long-term COVID-19.

W. Christopher Freiberg is a Minneapolis attorney with Midwest Disability law firm, which represents beneficiaries from across the country. He can be reached at 763-447-4103 or cfreiberg@midwestdisability.com. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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