For many individuals with a severe disability, impairment, or disease, the decision to stop working can be a difficult one or one that you have no control over. These circumstances can also leave you worrying about how to pay bills and support yourself. Luckily there is some support available from the federal government through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. While the program requirements for eligibility differ between the two programs, the medical grounds for eligibility are similar – and applicants with HIV or AIDS can often get benefits through either program. An experienced Fayetteville, AR disability lawyer like Ken Kieklak can guide you through the process of filing a disability claim in Arkansas for HIV/AIDS.
Medical Requirements for HIV and AIDS for Disability Benefits in Arkansas
The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists a number of conditions that the agency considers to be so severe that those suffering from the disease or impairment can qualify for disability benefits. Section 14 of the listings of conditions that qualify for disability benefits in Arkansas includes multiple immune system disorders, including Listing 14.11, which can provide benefits for people with severe cases of HIV.
Proof You are HIV-Positive
As most people with HIV are probably aware, HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” and it is a virus that can make it harder for your body to fight infection and disease. This often results in a condition called “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,” or AIDS. Most of the medical definitions for listed immune system disorders focus on the source of the deficiency, i.e., whether you have HIV or some other condition like lupus, as well as the effects of the condition, especially symptoms that affect your day-to-day abilities. To qualify for benefits with HIV, you will need to meet the criteria listed in the SSA’s medical definition under Listing 14.11.
To qualify, you must first be able to present medical evidence that documents the HIV infection. Medical documentation can include laboratory tests and other medical evidence collected by a doctor under acceptable testing standards. There should not be any inquiry required as to how you got HIV, just that you do have medical documentation to show that your issue is HIV and not some other health condition.
Standards for “Severe” HIV/AIDS Disabilities
For many people living with HIV today, the infection itself can be managed. In many cases, people with no detectable viral load do not spread the virus and may face minimal symptoms. While there is no requirement to show a certain level of viral load to qualify for benefits, it is unlikely that a person with HIV will be able to get disability benefits unless their case is quite severe. That is why the SSA requires proof of additional factors as well.
Beyond the documentation, anyone applying for benefits must also show that their HIV infection results in other severe health issues. For instance, proof of a condition such as central nervous system lymphoma, a low CD4 count showing a compromised immune system, complications requiring repeat hospitalization, or “repeated … manifestations of HIV infection” resulting in other health conditions must be shown to get benefits.
In some cases, these additional complications show the SSA that the condition is severe and that it affects your day-to-day life. While some HIV-positive individuals might be able to live without much interference, many others face severe health complications because of their HIV, and these complications can often justify disability benefits. Talk to a Bella Vista, AR disability attorney about whether your condition qualifies.
Getting a Vocational Allowance for HIV/AIDS Disability Benefits in Arkansas
Even if your HIV or AIDs condition cannot meet or equal the Listing, you may still qualify for benefits through a medical vocational allowance. A medical vocational allowance is available when an applicant has a severe impairment/condition or multiple impairments that result in severe cumulative effects. This allows applicants to get benefits even if their condition does not fit into a specific listing, but the condition must usually be as severe as a listed condition to qualify.
When applying for an allowance, the applicant must show that their condition makes it impossible to work. This inquiry is performed by first computing the individual’s residual functional capacity (RFC) – the things that they can still do despite their impairments. That RFC assessment is then considered in light of the applicant’s past work and the work that is available to them. Older workers will have their age and educational background taken into account if retraining would be necessary. If there is no past work or alternate work available for the applicant, they will often be able to qualify for disability benefits.
Applying for Disability with HIV or AIDS in Arkansas
One you know that your condition meets the SSA’s medical definition for HIV and that you have other complications or health issues that qualify you for benefits, you should be able to apply for disability benefits under SSDI or SSI. Keep reading about how to apply for disability benefits in Arkansas.
As mentioned, the SSA provides two programs for disability benefits: SSDI and SSI. In most cases, applicants should aim for SSDI, as it provides ongoing benefits to cover people who cannot work, and it even provides back benefits and retroactive benefits in many cases. SSDI is for people with a history of working and paying Social Security taxes, but who have become disabled and can no longer work. For many people living with HIV as a severe disability, you may be able to apply on a spouse’s or parent’s record instead. If you have no other way of getting disability benefits, SSI is a need-based program that you might be able to apply to.
Once you are ready to apply, you can submit your application. This application can often be completed online and includes biographical information, information about your condition and your disability, and supporting paperwork and documentation, as needed.
You should work with a Greenland, AR disability lawyer when submitting your disability application. Especially with conditions like HIV and AIDS that can have a wide range of outcomes for people living with the disability, the SSA might heavily scrutinize the application. If your case is borderline, then the SSA might try to throw out your claim for lack of medical information, incomplete documentation, or other technicalities. Our attorneys can fight to help make sure your initial claim is as strong as it can be to help you get the disability benefits you need for your health condition.
Fighting for Benefits After a Denied Application for Disability for HIV/AIDS
If your application is denied, our Fayetteville, AR denied disability attorneys can help. Many applications are denied not because the SSA actually found that the applicant’s disability was not valid, but because they did not have enough information to confirm that the person had a disability. This could happen because you missed questions or required parts of the paperwork. It could also happen because the SSA requested additional documentation of your condition or a medical review and you did not return the required info in full. A lawyer can help repair problems or satisfy requests for additional information to hopefully get your case approved. We can also appeal denied claims.
The first step in an appeal is to apply for reconsideration. During reconsideration, the SSA will review your claim again and see if they made a mistake in determining that you are disabled. If they still refuse your case, you can appeal the claim to a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ can hear evidence and arguments as to why your case should be accepted. If the claim is still denied, you can appeal it to the Review Counsel, and if they deny your claim, then you can appeal to a federal court. Our attorney can support you throughout the appeals process and represent you in hearings.
Arkansas Disability Lawyer for HIV/AIDS Applicants
If you are suffering from a severe disease or impairment like HIV or AIDS, Social Security disability benefits may be available. However, rejections are extremely common and especially so at the lower levels of consideration and reconsideration. Working with an experienced Fayetteville, AR disability lawyer can increase the likelihood that your claim will be accepted earlier in the process. And since appeals are sometimes necessary, working with a Farmington, AR disability lawyer from the outset will mean that your attorney is already familiar with your case. To schedule a free and confidential Social Security Disability benefits consultation, call (479) 316-0438 today or contact our firm online.
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