Pineau-Chaisson is a so-called long-hauler. These are people who survive COVID-19 but have symptoms – sometimes debilitating symptoms – many months later. As scientists scramble to explain what is going on and figure out how to help, disability advocates are also scrambling: They are trying to figure out whether long-haulers will qualify for disability benefits.

Disability advocates and lawmakers are calling on the Social Security Administration or SSA to study the issue, update their policies and offer guidance for applicants.

“If we end up with a million people with ongoing symptoms that are debilitating, that is a tremendous burden for each of those individuals, but also for our healthcare system and our society,” says Dr. Steven Martin, a physician and professor of family medicine and community health at UMass Medical School.

“We know what’s coming. So, we have to make sure that we’re on top of this,” says U.S. Rep John Larson, a Democrat from Connecticut, who joined with another member of Congress to write a letter asking the SSA to work with scientists to understand what support long-haulers might need.