Biden Says Long Covid Could Qualify Americans for Disability

While recognizing the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act the Biden Administration, through the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice, released new guidance on support for those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19. This department launched a clear program indicating that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

Within the new guidance surrounding long COVID-19, it is stated that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”

The White House said that “long COVID can be a disability under various Federal civil rights laws” and released guidance “explaining that some individuals with long COVID may have a disability under various civil rights laws that entitle them to protection from discrimination.”

Within the Health and Human Services and Justice Department the Administration for Community Living also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to aid individuals who have long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Alongside of this program, the Education Department released a resource document that gave information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies. They must provide services and “reasonable modifications” for children and students for whom long-term COVID-19 symptoms qualify as a disability.

Examples of “reasonable modifications” to which people with long COVID are entitled include:

Providing additional time on a test for a student who has difficulty concentrating.
Modifying procedures so a customer who finds it too tiring to stand in line can announce their presence and sit down without losing their place in line.
Providing refueling assistance at a gas station for a customer whose joint or muscle pain prevents them from pumping their own gas.
Modifying a policy to allow a person who experiences dizziness when standing to be accompanied by their service animal that is trained to stabilize them.

The guidance explains: “Long COVID can be a disability under Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557). Each of these federal laws protects people with disabilities from discrimination.”

On top of both of these endeavors, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long COVID-19.

Almost all of those who get COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate after just a few weeks. But some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus.

FAIR Health, a nonprofit research company, released last month that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least one month after being diagnosed with the virus.

The White House revealed all these new resources on Monday morning just before President Biden and Vice President Harris were ready to speak in the White House Rose Garden commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 1990 former President George H.W. Bush signed the civil rights act into law. As a Delaware senator, Biden co-sponsored the legislation which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a wide range of settings, including places of employment, schools, community living and transportation.

The Biden administration has made federal healthcare programs a central piece of its domestic agenda. The American Families Plan is described by the White House as “a once-in-a-generation investment in the foundations of middle-class prosperity — education, health care, and child care.” The new expenditures from the legislation would total over $2.5 trillion by 2031 and over $3.8 trillion by 2036.

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