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Press Release

Lambda Legal Advises Social Security Administration on HIV Disability Benefits

"It Is Essential That Administrators Understand How HIV Impacts Someone's Health and Functioning"

May 23, 2008

New York, NY -- Lambda Legal has submitted formal comments to the Social Security Administration (SSA) outlining ways to improve its criteria for evaluating HIV disability so that they reflect the real difficulties faced by people living with the disease.

"It is essential that SSA claims administrators understand how HIV impacts someone's health and functioning," said Bebe Anderson, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. "Despite advances in treatment, many people infected by HIV are unable to work and are entitled to disability benefits. Our goal is to advise SSA as it updates the rules so that they reflect advances and issues that arise in HIV treatment."

In March of 2008, the SSA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which invited public comment on how it might update its HIV disability guidelines. Lambda Legal's HIV Project called together a group of advocates and partner organizations to develop comments for submission to the SSA. The groups drafted a comment letter reflecting the most recent concerns for people living with HIV.

The letter comes after an original appeal from the SSA to HIV organizations for their input in July of 2003 and in October of 2006. The organizations that submitted the comments have extensive experience in both the legal and medical needs of people living with HIV. The proposed changes include increased attention to claims from individuals who are unresponsive to treatment or suffer the combined impact of HIV and other impairments, such as impaired mental functioning, metabolic abnormalities, and hepatitis. The organizations have witnessed the difficulties of people with HIV who are disabled and seek approval for SSA benefits. Their submission seeks to make sure policymakers work from the most current and accurate information.

Lambda Legal, working in collaboration with several other groups, drafted the recommendations and over 40 organizations and individuals endorsed them, including Gay Men's Health Crisis, National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the American Psychological Association.

This article was provided by Lambda Legal. Visit Lambda Legal's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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