As a Social Security Disability lawyer in Daytona Beach, Florida, I've seen an increase in the number of claims for disability benefits by people who've contracted HIV/AIDS. According to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the South have the highest HIV infection rates of any other part of the country, with Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville among the top ten cities with the highest infection rates.
As complications from the virus typically cause difficulty in maintaining gainful employment, many Florida residents turn to Social Security disability claims to pay for the rising costs of their treatment.
How to Claim Social Security Disability Based on HIV/AIDS
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to people who are HIV-positive and have symptoms of acquired immune deficiency (AIDS) that prevent them from working.
Since a person may not suffer symptoms of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for years, an HIV-positive diagnosis is not enough to qualify for benefits.
The official SSA Blue Book disability listing requires proof of one or more complications or infections in addition to a positive diagnosis of HIV infection by definitive laboratory testing.
If a patient does not meet the official listing, he or she may still be able to collect benefits due to:
- Disease symptoms and complications. Patients with HIV may have severely compromised immune systems, affecting their ability to fight off what are called opportunistic infections—illnesses that take thrive in people with weakened immune systems. Patients who are suffering from bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasitic infections, viral infections, respiratory conditions, or cancer will likely qualify for benefits. In addition, patients who suffer from severe symptoms of the disease, such fever, night sweats, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting, or chronic pain that prevents gainful employment may also be approved for disability.
- Side effects of treatment. In many cases, patients will qualify for disability due to the symptoms and side effects of treatment rather than the disease. The many medications used to treat HIV and AIDS often cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, lapses in concentration, and physical exhaustion, any one of which can make working impossible.
- Reduced functional capacity. Most patients will suffer a combination of symptoms that make it difficult to work as a result of their condition. For this reason, it's vital that patients provide comprehensive medical evidence for their disability cases, including diagnostic reports, summaries from a treating physician, lab reports of regular blood work and T-Cell counts, and a full list of medications and physical symptoms that may prevent you from working.
If you're having difficulty getting your Social Security disability claim approved, call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with an attorney.