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Does HIV/AIDS Make Me Eligible For Social Security Benefits?

Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work because of a medical condition. Therefore, a person with an HIV infection is likely to be considered disabled if his/her infection is symptomatic, including AIDS.

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If you have symptomatic HIV infection, you may qualify for payment of up to six months of benefits pending a final decision on your claim if:

  • a licensed physician confirms that the HIV infection is severe enough to meet
    the Social Security Administration’s criteria;
  • you meet the other SSI nonmedical eligibility requirements; and
  • you are not doing “substantial” work.

But even if you don’t suffer from severe symptoms, HIV may affect your daily life in a manner that disables you from working. Some of the symptoms that may affect your ability to work include:

  • Low energy, easily fatigued, generalized weakness
  • Fevers/night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Dyspnea on exertion
  • Persistent cough
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Forgetfulness, loss of concentration, slowness of thought
  • Other symptoms such as headache, anorexia, nausea or vomiting (possible drug side effects are considered as many individuals are taking antiviral agents, immune modulators or other medications that have serious side effects.)

If a disability decision cannot be made on medical factors alone, your situation will be evaluated based on a variety of physical and/or mental limitations you may have that prevent you from working. These include:

  • Your ability (or inability) to perform physical tasks such as walking, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching and handling objects; or
  • Your ability (or inability) to perform mental tasks such as understanding, carrying out and remembering instructions; responding appropriately to supervision and co-workers; and dealing with work pressures.

Improving Your Chances for Obtaining Benefits

  • See a doctor regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that your doctor can support your application for benefits.
  • Use a calendar to jot down notes about how you feel each day.
  • Record any of your usual activities you could not do on any given day. Include any psychological or mental issues.
  • Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, dizziness, or other hard-to-document symptoms.
  • Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.

Helpful Links

You can learn more about Social Security benefits and HIV/AIDS at the link below:

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