Long COVID-19 could boost numbers of Americans with disabilities, analyst says

Doctors may see more patients, but diagnoses difficult.

Lingering COVID-19 effects could add 22 million people or more to America’s population of disabled people, posing a new challenge for the nation’s Social Security disability program, says an analyst citing data from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R).

The Rosemont, Illinois-based organization has called for a national plan to address long COVID-19, or PASC, for the formal name Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Among more than 78.61 million COVID-19 survivors, AAPM&R estimates more than 23.58 million patients are dealing with at least one COVID-19 symptom that persists up to six months after the virus left their bodies.

More disabled

It appears long COVID-19 effects could be disabilities as defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Laura Mauldin, PhD. She analyzed potential effects on Social Security Supplemental Income, the federal program that provides cash benefits to people with disabilities.

“But since long COVID symptoms involve different systems in the body, and there is no simple way to test for it, getting a diagnosis can be difficult,” Mauldin wrote. “This adds an extra challenge to qualifying for Social Security.”

An associate professor at the University of Connecticut, Mauldin’s analysis was published in The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization.

‘Crisis within a crisis’

This month, the White House and Congressional lawmakers began focusing on help for patients dealing with, said a news release by AAPM&R.

Long COVID-19 has become a “crisis within a crisis,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts. She cited AAPM&R in her letter with 22 representatives calling on Congressional leaders to approve another COVID-19 relief package with more attention and resources to it.

“Across the country, in every Congressional district, people are suffering from Long COVID,” Ayanna’s March 8 letter said. “It is incumbent upon the federal government to be responsive to their needs with investments in educating the medical community and broader public on the illness, expanding access to multidisciplinary treatment, and funding inclusive research into long-term health outcomes with robust data collection.”

The letter came four days after President Joe Biden released the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. One of its goals is to “help Americans with long-term impacts” of the disease.