Cornelia Eichhorn can concentrate for 45 minutes. "After that, physical symptoms set in," she says. Pain and dizziness plague her every day. Her lungs are still not getting enough oxygen, which is causing her heart problems. In November 2020, Cornelia Eichhorn became infected with Corona – from her mother after she had been infected in the hospital. Since then, Eichhorn's employment has been suspended, she is ill.
Cornelia Eichhorn is 42 years old and suffers from post-Covid syndrome. In her work as a documenter in medical research, every single digit is important. It compares drugs for studies, for example. "I really like my job," she says. "I would like to work as a documentarian again in the future, but at the moment my health and getting well is actually more important to me."
"In the no man's land of our social system"
Her sick pay expired on May 9th. Since then she has been in the so-called "control", she explains. "I'm actually in a bit of a no-man's-land in our social system right now, because nobody's really responsible for me right now." She applied for a disability pension. A temporary pension for two, three or five years would certainly help. But it can take up to a year to process. She can get unemployment benefits for that long, "but this application has still not been approved." At the moment Cornelia Eichhorn lives on her savings.
The social insurance catches employed people who are thrown out of working life – for example in the case of work accidents or cancer. They are struggling with the consequences of the corona infection. In addition to the disability pension that Eichhorn is hoping for, those affected can apply for other help: Healthcare workers can have Covid-19 recognized as an occupational disease. And anyone who has been infected at work can report this as an accident at work.
Recognition bureaucratic and complicated
But recognition isn't just bureaucratic and complicated – especially for someone suffering from post-Covid symptoms. The social association VdK observes that the progress is far too sluggish. "At the moment, pension and accident insurance are often very rigid and the recognition of long-Covid illnesses does not yet work as comprehensively as would be good for our members and many other people in Germany," says VdK- President Verena Bentele.
According to the VdK, the recognition rate for occupational diseases is quite high at 80 percent. But only 25 percent of the applications would be permanently recognized. In the case of accidents at work, where it must be legally proven that one was infected at work, it is only 30 percent. "For us as a social association VdK, it is important that people are well assessed and examined and also get their support and help," says Bentele. "And don't have to be constantly afraid of falling out of support, because of course that's never helpful for the healing process."
Applications for occupational diseases multiplied
The numbers of these applications are alarmingly high. In 2019, before the corona pandemic, a good 80,000 suspicious reports of an occupational disease were received by the statutory accident insurance. In 2021 there were more than 220,000 – the majority of them with a good 150,000 applications related to Covid-19.
The German statutory accident insurance did not comment on this when asked by tagesschau.de. The Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund declares in writing:
Hoping for the disability pension
Cornelia Eichhorn has been to rehab twice. However, she cannot work. Like many other people affected, she is currently hoping for a disability pension. "If that's not the case, we would fall further down and in the worst case it would mean Hartz IV. And of course that's a prospect that you really don't want."
Eichhorn is pleased with the small steps she is making on her path to healing. She can no longer plan far into the future. "There's a certain insecurity," she says. "I just hope that the social system, which is well known in Germany, will catch us now."