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U.S. News

Institute of Medicine Recommends Changes for People With HIV/AIDS to Qualify for Disability

September 29, 2010

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently provided guidance to the Social Security Administration on updating its Listings of Impairments -- a tool that helps SSA quickly assess whether someone with HIV or another condition qualifies for benefits. The HIV/AIDS listings were last updated in 1993.

The following are the new recommendations to qualify someone as eligible for SSA disability payments:

  • A CD4 cell count at or below 50 cells per microliter of blood. "Because CD4 counts can change in response to antiretroviral therapy, claimants allowed disability in this way should be regularly reevaluated," IOM's report states.
  • Several rare but fatal or severely disabling HIV-associated conditions, including dementia and certain types of AIDS-related cancers. Benefits for these diseases should be permanent, IOM said.
  • Severe HIV-associated conditions such as hepatitis or heart disease, which are already covered by another section of SSA's full listing. These claimants should be regularly reevaluated, according to IOM.
  • HIV-associated conditions such as wasting syndrome that are not included in another section of the listing. These conditions must be severe and limit function. "Claimants allowed in this way should be regularly reevaluated," IOM suggested.

The biggest change would be that HIV-positive applicants seeking disability would have to reapply to SSA every three years. That policy pertains only to new applicants, not to those already receiving disability through SSA.

Raeline Nobles, executive director of the Dallas-based non-profit AIDS Arms, said SSA currently allows disability for people with a CD4 count of 200. She said she sees many clients who get along fine with a CD4 count of 100. "But politically, it might be a way to cut some expensive corners," she said, adding, "50 seems awfully low to me."

To view the report, "HIV and Disability: Updating the Social Security Listings," visit

Back to other news for September 2010

Adapted from:
Dallas Voice
09.24.2010; David Taffet

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

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