But some people with long symptoms of Covid have been successful – even without a positive coronavirus test – if they are able to show a substantial decline in their health and ability to work.
Steven Trompeter, 49, was unable to do his job as an industrial mechanic after falling ill with symptoms of Covid, including cough, fever, muscle aches, and loss of taste and smell, in February 2020. He filed a disability claim in December 2020 and was approved six months later.
Mr Trompeter, a Navy veteran who lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he believed the numerous medical records documenting his past medical condition and his repeated visits to a Veterans Affairs medical clinic in 2020 had helped show how ill he had become, along with “brain fog” and other difficulties.
“I have heard nightmares where you have to be refused three times and then ask a lawyer to appear before a judge, and I didn’t have to do any of that,” he said. “I just had to wait.”
Ms Tiggemann said that determining people’s eligibility 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 useful, might not be necessary if 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 the doctor’s tests, medical records, past treatments and if they have any other conditions.”
Long Covid has been shown to be similar to other illnesses that can be difficult to diagnose, including myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and the disease syndrome Post-treatment Lyme – conditions that can also cause fatigue, memory problems and joint pain.