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Positive-well, Ill-unemployed, protease-well-employed, ill
Dec 11, 2001

I have been HIV+ for app. 16 years. Was unemployed and on SSDI for almost 5 at the worst times. Returned to work after protease inhibitors feeling that I was just too young (43 now) and too healthy, in comparison with others, not to return to work. Worked for approximately 2 1/2 years with some extended absences for AIDS-related illnesses/exhaustion. Then I was in a car accident, worked through 6 months of excruciating pain culminating in 3 ulcers rupturing at work due to the massive amounts of narcotic pain medication I was taking. Recovered and my physician told me that he felt that the job was becoming too stressful for me and my HIV status. He suggested I consider reapplying for SSDI and disability. I didn't like the idea but after several months of slow recovery I decided that he was right. I have now been on STD through work for 10 months, (12 months is required before progressing to LTD). I have been reinstated to SSDI in the last few days. My CD-4s are 295 and my viral load is undetectable. Despite this I still have a great deal of fatigue and looking over the last few months I doubt if I could handle a regular job with set hours, especially my old job and company well known for its high stress levels and demanding production requirements. There are simply too any days or portions of days when I am not well. (fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, not to mention chronic pain from the accident) My company has now ordered me back to work, saying that I should never have been off due to my HIV status and that all of this was related to my car accident and now they are seeking restitution when the accident claim is settled. They have cut off my STD benefits, (reducing my monthly income by 1/2) which effectively prevents me from collecting LTD from my employer. I have contacted my lawyer handling the accident, as it all seems to be involved now. My question is this. Am I just a wuss who should grit his teeth and get my nose back to the grindstone or does it sound like my company is trying to get out of paying a disability claim that is rightfully mine. I know that this is just an opinion and that this will all be settled by lawyers and people who make much more than I ever will, but I am just so tired of trying to do the right thing and than never seeming to know what that is. I am very thankful for my newfound health, such as it is) and I am not opposed to working, but I feel as though I have just been kicked in the teeth one time too many. I have even wondered why I fought so hard to survive, even while caring for so many of my friends who did not, if in the end I am reduced to be being not well enough to work but forced to do so at some other less well-paying job to collect less money than I am entitled to and take care of myself. Thanks for listening to me reamble. I guess that is really what I needed, but I would appreciate a reply.

Response from Ms. Franzoi

I wish I could offer some additional advice, but I can't. You are doing the right thing in getting a lawyer to represent you in this case.

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