Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that pays benefits to people who are too disabled to work. If you are HIV-positive, and you have medical problems related to your HIV-status that prevent you from working, you may be eligible for SSDI benefits. However, you should be aware that being HIV-positive does not automatically qualify you as disabled for the purposes of the SSDI program.
How Do I Qualify as Disabled?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict eligibility standards when it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI benefits are only available to American citizens who are unemployed, and who have previously worked long enough, and paid enough Social Security taxes, to be covered by the insurance.
If you are covered by the SSDI program, you can apply for benefits, and if the SSA determines that your condition meets their definition of a disability, you will be approved. There are some impairments that will automatically qualify you as disabled by the standards of SSDI. (You can find more information about these conditions here). If you do not have one of these conditions, the SSA will consider your individual situation, and determine whether you qualify.
HIV infection, on its own, is not one of the listed conditions that will grant you automatic qualification. After all, there are many people living with HIV who are fully capable of working full-time. However, you can automatically qualify as disabled if you can show that you have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, and you have a severe HIV-related impairment. Examples of these impairments are HIV wasting syndrome, HIV Encephalopathy, certain types of cancers, and certain types of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections.
Even if you do not have a listed condition, you may still be able to collect benefits. You will qualify as disabled if the SSA determines that you have an impairment that is expected to last for at least a year or end in death, and that your impairment prevents you from doing your old job, and that it prevents you from adjusting to other types of work. Many recipients of SSDI benefits qualified as disabled by showing that they meet these requirements.
Applying for SSDI Benefits
The SSA has a policy of processing applications from people with HIV/AIDS as quickly as possible. According to the National Association of Social Workers, the process is usually three to four months long.
The SSA relies on applicants to provide medical evidence of their disabilities. It can be helpful to provide evidence such as medical records, laboratory results, and information about the medications you are taking. A written statement from your primary physician, describing the extent of your disability, is often a good way to help the SSA understand the specifics of your situation.
If you have HIV/AIDS, and you are applying for SSDI benefits, it may be helpful to seek advice from an attorney with experience in Social Security Disability cases, who can go over your application with you.