October 2, 2013

Is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) a disabling impairment for Social Security Benefits?

Many Indiana residents who have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) contact my Indianapolis office to ask if their condition will qualify them for Social Security disability benefits. If you have HIV/ AIDS and your symptoms keep you from being able to work, you may qualify for benefits from the Social Security Administration.

There are two ways to show the Social Security Administration (SSA) that your HIV/AIDS is a disabling condition; you can show that your symptoms “meet the listing” for HIV, or you can show that your combination of impairments reduce your capacity to perform work activities.

HIV infection is addressed by §14.08 of Social Security’s Listing of Impairments.  If your medical records show that you fulfill the criteria of this listing, Social Security will most likely find that you are disabled.  First, your medical records must contain documentation that you have HIV infection, either from laboratory test results or other evidence.  Then, you must show that you have at least one of the following:

  • Bacterial infections such as mycobacterial infection, nocardiosis, Salmonella bacteremia, or other recurrent infections requiring hospitalization or frequent IV antibiotic treatment
  • Fungal infections such as aspergillosis; certain types of candidiasis, coccidioidomycosis, cryptococcosis; histoplasmosis; mucormycosis; or Pneumocystis
  • Protozoan or helminthic infections such as cryptosporidiosis, isosporiasis, or microsporidiosis that cause diarrhea; extra-intestinal strongyloidiasis; or some types of toxoplasmosis
  • Viral infections such as certain types of cytomegalovirus disease, certain types of herpes simplex, certain types of herpes zoster, or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopthy
  • Malignant neoplasms such as certain types of carcinoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, lymphoma, or squamous cell carcinoma
  • HIV encephalopathy with progressive cognitive or motor dysfunctio
  • HIV wasting syndrome with chronic diarrhea or chronic weakness with fever
  • Chronic, treatment-resistant diarrhea requiring IV hydration or feeding
  • Chronic or treatment-resistant infection such as sepsis, meningitis, pneumonia, septic arthritis, endocarditis, or sinusitis
  • Repeated manifestations of HIV infection that do not fit in the above categories but result in significant, documented symptoms and marked limitation in your activities of daily living, social functioning, or ability to complete tasks in a timely manner

To show that your symptoms fit into the listed categories, you must have medical records showing consistent diagnosis and treatment as well as compliance with your doctor’s orders.

Even if your HIV/AIDS symptoms do not clearly fit into the listed categories, you may still be disabled under the SSA’s rules.  If your HIV/AIDS symptoms keep you from being able to perform the physical and mental requirements of any type of work, or if they would cause you to be absent from work too often, Social Security may find that you are unable to work.

Many of my clients have told me that it is difficult to talk to other people about their HIV/AIDS diagnosis, and that they often feel that people treat them unfairly because of their disease.  I believe that HIV/AIDS should be treated like any other disabling impairment.  If you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, are receiving consistent treatment, and are unable to work because of your condition, you may be disabled under the SSA’s rules. 

Your first step is to start the process and file for benefits. However, in my experience, many claims are denied at this initial step, and claimants must appeal their denials and appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

The appeals process can be confusing and time-consuming.  An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help you make sure you meet all the filing deadlines, completely develop the record, and obtain information from your medical providers to help show that you are unable to work.  I help hundreds of clients navigate this process every year.  Do not hesitate to contact my office for a free consultation.

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