CNBC – When Christopher Perry got sick in July 2021, he thought he just had a bad cold.
But after Perry’s adult son found him passed out in his living room, he was taken to the hospital and put on life support due to Covid-19.
A diagnosis of respiratory lung failure has led to long-term health consequences.
Today, Perry, 44, of Newport News, Virginia, can only walk short distances and gets winded quickly. His difficulty breathing leads to trips to the emergency room at least once a week.
“I start breaking down crying and can’t catch my breath,” Perry said.
His weight, blood pressure and sugar levels have climbed, requiring medication. He also receives breathing treatments and oxygen.
“That’s all they can really do,” Perry said.
Perry’s condition has made it impossible to resume his former full-time work at a NASA steam plant, where he used to climb ladders and maintain boilers.
Initially, he was able to obtain short-term and then long-term disability insurance through his employer. Today, after a “very long tedious process,” Perry relies exclusively on Social Security disability benefits for income, with monthly checks of about $1,600 per month.
“I didn’t know Covid would do all this,” Perry said.
To date, the Social Security Administration has flagged about 44,000 disability claims that include some mention of Covid-19, though that is not necessarily the primary reason for those applications.
That represents just about 1% of disability applications received since the agency started tracking those claims.
Yet it is possible that future disability benefit applications due to long Covid may increase.
Applying for federal benefits can take months
Up to 30% of Americans who get Covid have developed long-haul symptoms, affecting as many as 23 million people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Long Covid has put an estimated 2 million to 4 million Americans ages 18 to 65 out of work, according to recent research from the Brookings Institution