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USA: Covid long-haulers face grueling fights for disability benefits

Deepa Singh, 30, of Louisville, USA, has been seriously ill for two years, racked with extreme fatigue, racing heartbeat and memory problems from Long covid that she says prevent her from working. Adding to her distress, she says, has been a grueling — and so far unsuccessful — battle for disability payments.

Singh, who worked as a project manager, is among a cohort of Long Covid patients who have been denied disability benefits, either by private insurance companies, which operate benefit plans offered by employers, or by the Social Security Administration, which manages government disability benefits.

Tasked with sorting legitimate health claims from fraudulent or marginal ones, these gatekeepers now face a novel challenge as the coronavirus pandemic drags on: a flood of claims citing a post-infection syndrome that is poorly understood by the medical community and difficult to measure.

Patients cite a litany of symptoms that defy verification through basic medical tests. They become exhausted at the merest exertion. They can’t remember simple words. Their hearts feel like they are fluttering. Yet neurological exams, ECGs and chest X-rays come back clean.

Doctors said in interviews they are treating Long Covid patients who are clearly too sick to work but who have difficulty meeting the evidence threshold insurers demand: objective medical test results showing an inability to perform work.

Specialized tests can measure a few Long Covid-related problems, such as a central nervous system disorder called dysautonomia, which affects the body’s ability to regulate itself. But there are months-long waiting lists for the tests, doctors and patients said.

The challenges are similar to those faced for years by people claiming disabilities based on chronic fatigue syndrome. But the pandemic has given rise to such claims on a far greater scale.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Washington Post, 8 March 2022


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