ALRP Participates in Long-term Survivor Clinic

ALRP Staff Attorney, John Fasesky, joined Openhouse Social Services Manager Ellyn Bloomfield, and Positive Resource Center Managing Legal Director Andy Chu on a panel addressing questions around the maze of disability benefits and employment.The event was sponsored by Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome).

After years of struggling to secure disability benefits, many long term survivors are considering a return to work but are reluctant to risk losing those essential benefits that have provided them an income and health insurance for decades. Held on April 16th at the San Francisco LGBT Center and entitled “Let’s Kick ASS Discusses the Disability Trap for Long-Term Survivors,” this town hall-style seminar offered an opportunity for people living with HIV/AIDS to ask questions, and determine if returning to work is right for them.

As long-term survivors are living longer and facing the prospect of turning 65, many will transition from a private long term disability benefit to only retirement income from social security. These individuals will see their monthly income drop precipitously.   Many long-term survivors have been on public disability benefits for years and yearn to increase their income. Disability benefits have provided a safety net for thousands of people with HIV, but the effect of living on disability benefits and not working can take its toll. One of the downsides of not working is that it can have psychological ramifications. Many people attach great importance and self worth to one’s employment and one’s income. It is easy to feel devalued. In addition, not having enough money to meet one’s needs or to socialize can contribute to one’s feelings of invisibility or isolation.

Many people with HIV receiving private disability benefits are not planning for the eventual termination of their disability policy at the end of the policy term, generally when they become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. The income disparity this transition will create requires planning and preparation to help enable these clients to make a successful transition, including making choices around housing, medical access and budgeting for survival.

“It is clear by the large number of attendees, and the myriad questions they asked, that transitioning back to employment and/or from disability benefits to only Social Security benefits is fast becoming a major issue in their lives,” stated Fasesky. “We’ve tapped into an unmet, and quickly emerging, need for people over 50 living with HIV/AIDS,” he continued.

The seminar raised enough questions that additional seminars addressing these issues are needed. ALRP is working with Let’s Kick ASS, and other service providers to address the needs of people with HIV/AIDS over age 50. ALRP has also created the ALRP HIV50+ Project, a program to provide legal representation and counseling developed especially for people with HIV over 50 years of age. ALRP’s HIV50+ Project also includes trainings and educational presentations to help these clients with a myriad of issues including housing, insurance, and estate planning.