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Can You Qualify for Social Security Disability If You Have AIDS?


On April 26, people throughout Indianapolis raised money during an event called Dining Out For Life. The event, put on by the Damien Center, helped raise money for the non-profit’s programs, which include free HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing, counseling services, and emergency assistance. This organization reminds us that the fight against HIV and AIDS isn’t over, and that thousands of Hoosiers’ lives are affected as a result.

In general, AIDS (autoimmune deficiency syndrome) can cause patients’ immune systems to gradually weaken over time, making common illnesses increasingly life-threatening. Though different for everyone who is found to be HIV-positive, AIDS can take around a decade to fully manifest itself, which means some people won’t seek treatment until the disease has run most of its course. Like some cancers and other serious diseases, there’s no cure for AIDS, but early detection and treatment can help counteract the disease’s corruption of the immune system.

Disability Benefits for AIDS


The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides financial assistance in the form of monthly payments to people affected by specific conditions that prevent them from earning a livable wage. AIDS is one of these conditions.

However, applying for disability benefits is a notoriously difficult process that can take months or even years to get approved. Add to this the complicated application itself and the task can seem impossible, especially when also facing a debilitating disease. Focusing your effort on the specific requirements the SSA needs to see to prove your disability may help your application get approved and your benefits come quickly.

Criteria for AIDS

The SSA’s listing for autoimmune disorders like AIDS is a laundry list of diagnoses, symptoms, and effects on the patient’s lifestyle that can confuse even adept readers. Simply put, if one of the following criteria apply to you, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the SSA:

  • Multicentric (not localized or unicentric) Castleman disease affecting multiple groups of lymph nodes or organs containing lymphoid tissue
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma
  • Primary effusion lymphoma
  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
  • Pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma
  • Absolute CD4 count of 50 cells/mm3 or less
  • Complication(s) of HIV infection requiring at least three hospitalizations within a 12-month period and at least 30 days apart
  • Repeated manifestations of HIV infection, but without the requisite findings for those listings, or other manifestations resulting in significant, documented symptoms or signs

If these seem straightforward, keep in mind that the application process involves gathering sufficient medical evidence to prove that you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and that at least one of these conditions applies — to the satisfaction of the SSA.

The application process can become even more confusing if your symptoms are close but not absolutely on track with the SSA’s listings. If you appeal your application after it’s been denied, you may be able to request a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) who will consider medical evidence, an expert witness’s testimony (in this case, an HIV/AIDS doctor), and your personal circumstances before making a final decision. Because this is often the last stop before being finally approved or denied, these hearings are important and the preparation for them is crucial. Hiring a Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) lawyer may help you gain the advantage you need to file a successful claim.

Indiana Disability Attorneys on Your Side

The attorneys at Hensley Legal Group are well-versed in Social Security disability law and the inner workings of the SSA. We can help you file an initial application, submit an appeal, or prepare for a hearing, and we won’t be paid unless you are. Start a free conversation with us today by calling or contacting us online.