Federal and state governments provide a number of benefit programs and health care support to people living with HIV and AIDS. Some programs have very specific eligibility requirements and the application process can be complicated. Qualification requirements and procedures change frequently, so it is important to check with government agencies for the latest application requirements.
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Social Security Disability and SSI
Persons living with HIV/AIDS may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration considers a person to be disabled if they can demonstrate a physical or mental condition that prevents him or her from engaging in substantial gainful employment. The income level that the Administration considers "substantial and gainful" changes every year. The current year's income level can be accessed at the Social Security Administration website. Children with HIV/AIDS whose parents are low income may qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
Social Security/Disability Cash Payments
People living with HIV and AIDS who have worked a number of years and paid Social Security/Disability taxes may be eligible for a monthly cash disability payment. As a rule, to qualify for Social Security/Disability payments a person must have worked five years in the 10 year period before the first year the person became disabled. Younger people may qualify for disability payments with fewer years of work, depending on the age at which they became disabled. The amount of the payment depends on the number of years worked and the amount of taxes paid prior to disability.
Supplement Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is paid to people who have little or no income or resources. Those whose Social Security/Disability payments are very low because they have not paid enough taxes or worked enough years prior to the onset of disability may qualify for SSI in addition to Social Security/Disability payments. Those who qualify for SSI are likely eligible for food stamps and Medicaid.
Medicaid is a federal health program that pays medical expenses for eligible individuals. Medicaid pays for in-patient and outpatient care. In some states, Medicaid covers the cost for a private nurse, hospice care, and drugs to treat HIV and AIDS.
Aids Drug Assistance Program
Aids Drug Assistance Programs are discretionary grants that help pay for drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. The grants are available from both state and federal programs. People living with HIV and AIDS who are low income and uninsured or underinsured are eligible to apply for a drug grant. The grant will provide assistance with payments and co- payments on antiretroviral medicines. Other medications are determined by State governments. The Federal government funds the grants that are administered by the States. Each State determines eligibility criteria and covered medications. If a person with HIV or AIDS has other options to pay for medications, like private insurance or government benefits, they must exhaust those resources first.
Ryan White Programs
Ryan White was a teenager who passed away from complications from AIDS. He became infected with HIV as a young child after receiving infected blood transfusions for treatment of haemophilia. After his death, the United States Congress enacted the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act in his honour. This Act funds programs for the medical care and medications for low income, uninsured and under insured people with AIDS. Grants are also available to assist family members of people with AIDS. Each State administers their share of the funds through State health departments.
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