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Changes in how SSA evaluates HIV infections

Disability claims for Social Security Disability are complex. This is due to many factors, but especially because the standard that SSA uses is fluid. There is no single factor, such as a medical condition or your work experience that is determinative. The test for disability is the inability to engage in "substantial gainful activity" and that that condition has lasted at least 12 months or is terminal.

Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a notice of rescission of a Social Security Ruling (SSR) pertaining to how the agency evaluated "duration" for individuals suffering from a  human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The SSR dated back to 1993. At that time, survival for anyone diagnosed with HIV was considered unlikely.

In the recent notice, the agency pointed out that in the early 1990s, "medical outcomes for individuals infected with HIV were sufficiently unfavorable that we could reasonably assume that all impairments meeting or equaling the HIV listings either were permanent or would result in death"

The new ruling finds that due to "advances in medical treatment of and expected outcomes for people with HIV infection," that presumption is no longer accurate. While being diagnosed with HIV is still a very serious medical condition, the treatment and control of the disease have become much better and for some people, it may no longer be a fully disabling condition for purposes of SSD.

SSA has hundreds of these SSRs, and it does amend, rescind and publish new rules, which is why it can be helpful to work with an attorney during the application process. They are able to keep up to date on these issues and use the information in these SSRs to gain insight into the disability determination process.

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