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AIDS Social Security Rules Studied

May 28, 2003

In a move that could be felt by people with AIDS currently receiving federal disability benefits or those who might need them in the future, the Social Security Administration is seeking comment from the public on how best to revise the rules it uses to define who is disabled by an immune system disorder. The rules determine what illnesses or conditions a person must have to be considered disabled.

People who are disabled by AIDS can get a basic benefits package of $552 a month and they are enrolled in Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Some states provide additional benefits, but only after a person with AIDS has met the Social Security definition of disabled. "It's a minority of states, but it's a minority of states including New York and California," said Ann Hilton Fisher, executive director of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago.

Tens of thousands of people with AIDS are receiving the federal benefits. SSA has not revised the rules since they were created in 1993, though it has extended the expiration date of the rules four times. SSA is soliciting comments through July 8 on how best to revise the rules. After that it may revise them, which would require another period for public comment before they take effect, or extend them again.

New drugs have improved the lives of people with AIDS, but the drugs also have side effects such as diabetes or heart disease caused by high cholesterol. "Virtually none of these are specifically addressed in the listings," said Leslie Kline Capelle, a benefits attorney in Los Angeles. Fisher wants revisions that recognize that some people with AIDS may be well enough to work, but they may also need to go back on disability. The rule changes could make it tougher for people with AIDS to receive benefits. "We're certainly fearful that an administration that has been hostile to public benefit programs might look at this an opportunity to save some money," said Michael Kink, legislative counsel at Housing Works.

Back to other CDC news for May 28, 2003

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Adapted from:
Gay City News (New York City)
05.23.03; Duncan Osbourne

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on Social Security Disability Insurance and HIV/AIDS