A reader reached out to ask: “Can I collect disability for HIV/AIDS?”
Like almost any other question, the answer is: it depends on the circumstances and facts of your unique case. The first thing to remember is, not everyone with a chronic illness can qualify for disability benefits. Only those who cannot work for at least 12 months because of their illness may qualify. The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates each case on its merits before issuing a determination.
How Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
You might qualify for disability if you cannot work for a year due to a long-term physical or mental condition.
There are basic qualifying factors you must meet to collect disability for HIV/AIDS (or any physical or mental disability). Let’s break those down.
- You must first work in jobs where you paid Social Security payroll taxes to secure federal Disability Insurance (DI) coverage. Specifically, you need to work for at least one-quarter (¼) of your adult life before you apply for those benefits. For claimants 31 years or older, you must have worked at least 5 of the past 10 years to qualify. (People younger than 18 typically can’t qualify because they haven’t worked enough years and paid into the system yet.)
- You must have at least one long-running medical condition (physical or mental) that meets the SSA’s definition of disability. There are many conditions that may qualify for disability benefits, such as cancer to hematological disorders to skin diseases. Disability for HIV/AIDS falls under the umbrella term Immune System Disorders. Whatever health condition affects you, you must provide extensive medical records in order to collect disability benefits. These records must show you receive care for the stated impairments.
- The SSA must determine you truly cannot work for 12+ months in your current job or secure other work. Not being able to complete your current (or most recent) job duties, chosen profession or position isn’t enough. Instead, the SSA will evaluate whether you have what they call ‘transferable skills.’ This means they will investigate whether you can do any work at all before awarding you monthly disability benefits.
How Can I Qualify for Disability for HIV/AIDS?
Like any other health problem, disability for HIV/AIDS requires you to go through the exact same qualifying process. This means that you must meet the SSA’s base requirements and provide documentation that supports your claim.
Testing is the only way to know if someone is HIV positive. Not everyone who tests positive will meet the requirements to collect disability for HIV. Some HIV positive people are asymptomatic. Others can manage the disease with medication. Being HIV positive does not mean you have AIDS, however. AIDS occurs in untreated HIV patients when the infection progresses to a later stage.
HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system. This means HIV positive people might develop other diseases because their immune systems cannot protect them. One of the determinations SSA will make, by reviewing medical records, is when the HIV infection or associated conditions became disabling.
All of this means that simply testing positive for HIV does not qualify someone for disability benefits. But if you cannot work because of the physical or mental effects that directly result from HIV, AIDS, or other conditions that often occur in those who are HIV positive, and you can provide medical documentation to prove this, then you might be able to collect disability for HIV.
Should You Talk to an Attorney?
If you test positive for HIV and become unable to work, it’s absolutely worth your time to consult an attorney. There are many advantages to having a Social Security disability attorney file your claim. For example: It’s likely you’ll have a shorter wait time to collect disability for HIV than those without legal representation. Also, government data shows that claimants with representation are almost 3x more likely to get benefits.
Remember, all our disability attorneys offer a free consultation and won’t collect a fee unless you receive benefits. There are no up-front costs for your consultation where an attorney reviews your potential case. If an attorney thinks you have a case and accepts you as a client, you pay nothing unless you win.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online SSD benefits evaluation now!
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.