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Tips on Transitioning From Work to Disability

Winter 2013

Many people with a diagnosis such as HIV, a chronic condition that can be progressive in its severity, tend not to look ahead to the possibility of leaving work someday. While this may be emotionally helpful, it can make for a bumpy and stressful time when leaving work becomes necessary.


Plan. Once you have a diagnosis or other indication that you may have to stop working at some time in the future, you should do a "Benefit Review" so you will know what benefits are available, what you have to do to become eligible for them, and how much income you will have when you stop working. The earlier in advance you do this review, the greater the possibility of making changes to enhance your benefits when and if you do become disabled. Also, once completed, you will be more comfortable knowing that there is assistance for you when you can no longer work.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Greg (Elgin, IL) Thu., Feb. 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm EST
I recently went on Social Security Disability and Medicare due to a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My social worker handled all of the paperwork. The Social Security caseworker/adjudicator asked my social worker why he did not include that I am HIV positive in the write up which they found through examination of my medical records. They advised him that just a diagnosis of HIV positive provided additional points that assured I was able to go on Social Security Disabilty and Medicare.
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Comment by: Adolfo C. (Deltona, FL) Thu., Feb. 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm EST
I did all of the above. It took four years to get from initial application to Administrative Law Judge hearing. The most important thing to prepare for is the financial aspect--I exhausted all of my savings and 401k assets to pay for meds, COBRA and co-pays during those four years. I was rejected for Medicaid and Food Stamps because I had "too much money". Ryan White Care Act assistance is on the decline as states and the feds reduce funding. I wouldn't count on it being around much longer.
The best advice I can give anyone contemplating Social Security Disability is SAVE as much money as you can before you get to ill to work. You will need that money more than you can imagine.
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