ABC57 Sound Off: Long COVID patient struggles accessing disability benefits

ABC57 Sound Off: Long COVID patient struggles accessing disability benefits

Brian Yost left a message on the ABC57 Sound Off inbox, complaining about issues dealing with the Social Security Administration, as he tried to get disability benefits for long COVID. 

While life has mostly gone back to normal since the height of the pandemic, there’s still an estimated 24.8 million adults living with long COVID, according to the CDC. With symptoms including brain fog, lung issues, and blood clots, the Social Security Administration has declared long COVID a disability that's eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  

SSDI is meant for people under the age of 65, unable to work because of a disabling condition.

But as Brian Yost found out, actually accessing those benefits has been as complicated as finding relief from the relatively-new condition.

"Doctors can't give me answers. They don't have answers," Yost said. "And you can't be mad at them, because this is all brand new to them, they don't know.”

Yost, from Mishawaka, thought it would be a couple weeks in bed before he was back to normal.

It’s been nearly two years.

At 63 years old, long COVID forced Brian Yost into an early retirement.

"In some aspects I believe I could probably fight through the brain fog to go back to work. But physically, I’m not half the man I used to be," Yost said.

Nearly 1 in 5 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 still suffer from long COVID, according to the CDC.

For Yost, it’s caused brain fog, blood clots, a pulmonary embolism, and lead to a constant round of blood thinners. But the pain has been the worst.  

"I eat a 20mg time-release morphine twice a day, just so I can have a decent day. And in between there sometimes I wind up eating an oxycodone. Just so I can have a day when I don’t hurt. And you have to learn, you have to learn how to deal with it," Yost said.

Yost and his wife are staying in their camper in Howe, IN for the Summer. It’s turned into a de-facto outpatient office, where Yost sorts through his prescriptions, schedule doctors appointments, and deals with the seemingly endless bureaucracy of trying to access SSDI.

"I'm still alive. Yeah, I guess that is the silver lining. But the silver lining is becoming very dim when you have to fight on a daily basis just to do normal things," Yost said.

The latest hurdle for Yost from the Disability Determination Bureau is a required "mental status exam" with a clinical psychologist. ABC57 reached out to the DDB to ask what a mental exam has to do with a physical condition, and have not received a response.

"There are so many people out here right now that are suffering like this. And our government has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to this. They’re hoping that this will all go away, and it's not," Yost said.

Yost believes the Social Security Administration is delaying payment until he hits 65, when disability automatically reverts to retirement benefits.

"I honestly believe they are doing everything they can do to avoid paying me," Yost said.

He sees the process as wait for a cure, or die.

"Why do I have to do all this? You've already declared long COVID as a disability. You already have doctors that have told you I have long COVID. So what do you want me to do? Lose a leg, lose an arm? What do I have to do to get help?”

According to Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health, anywhere from 2-10% of young COVID-19 survivors, some as young as 9 years old, experience lingering symptoms. 

You can email [email protected], call Sound Off at (574) 344-5565, or fill out our online form.

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