March 21, 2022

Employer-Reported Respiratory Illness Increased 4,000% in 2020, Signaling Effects from COVID-19, Allsup Reports

Allsup discusses the benefits of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people with debilitating conditions

Belleville, Illinois — March 21, 2022 — Employer-reported respiratory illnesses among U.S. workers increased nearly 4,000% in 2020, signaling effects from the pandemic, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation and veterans disability appeals services.

In a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of respiratory cases rose from 10,800 in 2019 to 428,700 in 2020. Respiratory illnesses comprised 79% of all employer-reported illnesses in 2020 compared to 8.5% in 2019. Chart courtesy of the BLS.


“This enormous spike in reported cases of respiratory illnesses strongly suggests the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said T.J. Geist, Principal Advocate for Allsup. “As we’ve come to understand in these past two years, the coronavirus and its variants have serious implications for the lungs and overall respiratory system.”  

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a severe case of COVID-19 can produce scarring and other permanent problems in the lungs, but even mild infections can cause persistent shortness of breath — such as becoming winded easily after even light exertion. Lung recovery after COVID-19 is possible but takes time. Severe, lasting effects are impacting some workers who are unable to continue at their jobs. 

Geist said Allsup is seeing this as individuals reach out to the company for assistance in obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance, a vital program for those who are no longer able to work because of long-haul COVID or other debilitating conditions. More than 156 million U.S. workers are insured for federal disability insurance, paid for through their payroll FICA taxes while they were working.

Because eligibility for SSDI benefits are based on having a severe medical condition lasting 12 months or longer, it may take some time to determine the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the number of U.S. workers needing to file for Social Security disability benefits because of long-term illness resulting from the pandemic.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, they must meet Social Security’s requirements:

  • Be between 21 and full retirement age.
  • Have worked at least five out of the last 10 years and paid FICA taxes.
  • Be unable to work in any capacity because of a mental or physical impairment expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
  • Be under the care of a healthcare professional with documented medical evidence.

“Allsup is helping a large number of people affected by long-COVID,” said Geist. “Frequently the illness has exacerbated the severity of an existing medical condition. Having an experienced representative can make a big difference in navigating the complex SSDI program – from confirming eligibility and completing the required forms, to collecting medical evidence and handling communications with the Social Security Administration and judges.”

Allsup has helped more than 350,000 people receive SSDI benefits, which include monthly income, Medicare coverage, and dependent benefits. 

Learn more about: What is SSDI? on this informational page.

To hear from an Allsup customer about his experience, watch this video.

Help with SSDI Claims and Appeals

For more information about applying for SSDI benefits, filing your appeal if you were denied, or to see if you are eligible, visit or call 1-800-678-3276.


Allsup and its subsidiaries provide nationwide Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, return to work, and healthcare benefits services for individuals, their employers and insurance carriers. Allsup professionals deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis.  Learn more at and @Allsup or download a free PDF of Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance: Getting It Right The First Time.