How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits with HIV/AIDS


If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and you are not able to work because of the symptoms that you’re experiencing, you can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits. As long as you have worked in the past and you expect that you won’t be able to work for at least a year because of your symptoms, you will be eligible to file a claim. Disability benefits can be spent on any living expenses, not just medical expenses, so they can help you pay for things like housing or utility bills.

Qualifying For Disability Benefits With HIV/AIDS

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets very strict standards for all of the conditions that make someone eligible for disability benefits. The conditions that are accepted by the SSA are listed in a book called the Blue Book, which you can look through on the SSA’s website. Every listing in the book also has a list of requirements that you have to meet in order to be approved for benefits, based on that condition. The listing for HIV/AIDS is very specific and says that you must have a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, in addition to:

  • Castleman disease affecting multiple groups of lymph nodes or organs containing lymphoid tissue
  • central nervous system lymphoma
  • primary effusion lymphoma
  • progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
  • pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma
  • absolute CD4 count of 50 cells/mm3 or less
  • absolute CD4 count of less than 200 cells/mm3 or CD4 percentage of less than 14 percent, and one of the following:
    • BMI measurement of less than 18.5, or
    • Hemoglobin measurement of less than 8.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL).
  • HIV complications requiring at least three hospitalizations within a 12-month period. Each hospitalization must last at least 48 hours and be at least 30 days apart.
  • Repeated HIV infections, including the conditions listed above that don’t meet the criteria above, with one of the following:
    • severe limitation of activities of daily living
    • severe limitation in social functioning, or
    • severe limitation in completing tasks due to problems concentrating, keeping up with the pace, or endurance.

You will need to submit copies of all of your test results and medical records to the SSA to show that you meet all of those requirements. If you don’t meet these requirements but are still unable to work, you can ask for a Medical Vocational Allowance.

Medical Vocational Allowance

It’s very common for people to not meet the Blue Book listing requirements but also be unable to work because of their condition. You can still be eligible for benefit approval if you apply for a Medical Vocational Allowance. To get this exception, your doctor needs to fill out a form called a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. You can get a copy of this form on the SSA’s website. Your doctor needs to describe in detail what your symptoms are and how they limit your ability to work. Once completed, you can turn in the RFC with your medical documentation and your claim forms to the SSA.

Filing A Claim

Filing a claim for disability benefits can be done quickly and easily right through the SSA’s website. You can fill it out the form and submit it anywhere that you have Internet access, even on your smartphone. But if you need help with the forms or you have questions you can also contact the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

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This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Center. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at or by emailing them at

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