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Evaluating Disability Cases for Diagnoses of COVID-19

| Jun 11, 2021 | Firm News |

On April 16, 2021, the Social Security Administration released an Emergency Message, EM-21032, so as to provide guidance on how to evaluate adult disability cases for a diagnosis of COVID-19. Social Security will find COVID-19 to be a medically determinable impairment if there is evidence of the following from an acceptable medical source:

  1. A report of a positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2
  2. A diagnostic test with findings consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., chest x-ray with lung abnormalities, etc.), or
  3. A diagnosis of COVID-19 with signs consistent with COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, etc.).

The Emergency message states that a positive antibody test on its own is not enough to establish a diagnosis of COVID-19 because a positive antibody test “may indicate that a person has had different Coronavirus or received a vaccination for COVID-19.” COVID-19 will also not be considered as a medically determinable impairment if the person only alleges that he or she is medically at high-risk for COVID-19 or if the evidence indicated a false positive test. Because the definition of disability for Social Security requires a person to have been disabled for at least 12 months or to have an impairment that is supposed to last for at least 12 months, some diagnoses of COVID-19 will not meet the durational requirement. If a person recovers from COVID-19 with no residual symptoms, the durational requirement will not have been met. If a person develops long-term effects of COVID-19, develops one or more new medically determinable impairments caused by COVID-19, or has an existing medically determinable impairment that has worsened because of COVID-19, the durational requirement will be met.

The Emergency message states, “COVID-19 is a new disease and the trajectory of improvement or worsening may be difficult to predict in some cases. If the medical evidence indicates a person is in hospice or palliative care with no possibility of recovery, [SSA] may be able to make a favorable determination without medical deferral.”

For more information on how a diagnosis of COVID-19 might affect your Social Security disability, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. represents Social Security disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process from initial application to appeals to Federal Court.

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