Monday, April 24, 2006



Social Security Disability SSI and Hiv and Aids

A number of years ago, it was true that a CD4 count below a certain threshold was enough to qualify a claimant for disability benefits. That's no longer the case, however. Now, the focus of eligibility for social security disability and ssi is on whether or not a claimant is symptomatic.

The reasoning is not difficult to understand, of course. With advances in medical treatment, the outlook for HIV patients has improved. Still, I've always found the logic "twisted" in a way. With the social security administration's approach to HIV, you won't qualify for benefits until you are practically in a tailspin, i.e. you are clearly symptomatic. And prior to being symptomatic, an HIV patient may have no choice but to endure the rigors of work while living with HIV.

Seems kind of heartless, if you really think about it. Why heartless? Well, HIV is fundamentally about the immune sytem. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the immune system is directly affected by stress. Does an HIV patient really need a lot of job stress when, ideally, the focus should be on keeping stress levels low and the immune system strong? For that matter, should a person with HIV really have to be around co-workers who are constantly bringing colds and flu bugs from their homes into the work environment.

Not to my mind. But that's how it is. And it is very reminiscent of how social security deals with heart conditions, since as most examiners know, a claimant with a heart problem has to be nearly dead before he'll get his benefits awarded.


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