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What should I do?
Jul 19, 2000

First, thank you in advance for your forum. It does help. After working with HIV for four years I have had to leave my job. I have applied for disability and have been told this can take up to six months. Until a determination is made I have applied to the NY DAS. My first visit they asked for my latest bank statement, phone bill, electric bill and ID. I told them I live in an all electric building and that was why I had such high bills. The worker said he never heard of such a thing and would not help at all until I got a turnoff notice. Phones are not considered a necessity. Today I received a call stating they wanted four months' of bank statements. This seems unusual. When I went to the office there were people there that do not seemed to EVER have worked. I can't understand why they are looking so closely at my records. Also, to them $57 for two weeks was adequate. I have four doctors' appointments that I have to cancel as they will not speed up health insurance. I really need to get these problems solved. Do you know of any office in NY that I can call? I've tried the usual places (GMHC, etc.) and they are overwhelmed themselves. One more questions. Should I begin to feel a bit better, would I jeopardize my benefits by working for 10 hours a week? Will they take everything away or just take away the difference? Thanks again. A.J.

Response from Ms. Franzoi

I am assuming that when you state that you've applied for disability you are referring to Social Security disability benefits not an individual policy that you purchased or a group plan sponsored by an employer. If this is the case, it is not unusual for Social Security to take at least 6 months to approve the benefit. In addition, Social Security frequently denies the initial application and it can take two to three applications and appeals before the coverage is granted, usually retroactively. I am not familiar with NY DAS. I suggest that you contact local HIV/AIDS organizations in New York to try to obtain assistance. If GMHC can't assist you, ask them for a referral to another organization or a legal aid society that might be able to help. With respect to returning to work, you need to carefully check the requirements for NY DAS to determine what would happen if you return to work on a part-time basis. If you are referring to the impact on Social Security disability benefits, Social Security encourages disabled individuals to return to work by allowing a disabled person to return to work on a trial basis for a period of up to 9 months plus an additional 3-month grace period. During the first 9 months, a month in which earnings exceed $200 is generally considered a trial month. After a 3-month grace period, benefits are suspended if earnings are substantial (generally over $700/month). Medicare coverage can continue for at least 39 months after completion of the trial work period.

Lynn Franzoi

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