SSA’s HIV disability criteria (i.e., the HIV Infection Listings) have not been substantially updated to reflect these changes. In 2009, SSA asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recommend revisions to the Listings, for which the IOM established the Committee on Social Security HIV Disability Criteria.

The severity of HIV infection and its disabling nature are why SSA originally added HIV to its disability listings. It is the history and progression of medical management that necessitates revision of how SSA considers HIV as an emerging disability, how the Listings reflect the current state of clinical practice, and how they address the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.


SSA pays disability benefits through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In 2008, more than 12 million people received Social Security disability benefits, and SSA expected to process more than 3.3 million new disability applications claims in fiscal year 2010 (see Table 1-1) (SSA, 2010a).


Definition of Disability

To be eligible for disability benefits under SSDI, a person must be insured for benefits, be younger than full retirement age, have filed an application for benefits, and have a Social Security-defined disability. SSA defines disability as “an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity1 by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s)2 which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be


The term substantial gainful activity (SGA) is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. For work activity to be substantial, it does not need to be performed on a full-time basis. Work activity performed on a part-time basis may also be substantial gainful activity. “Gainful” work activity is work performed for pay or profit; work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit; or work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of the person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind persons. If a person’s impairment is anything other than blindness, earnings averaging over $1,000 a month (for the year 2010) generally demonstrate SGA. For a statutorily blind person, earnings averaging over $1,640 a month (for the year 2010) generally demonstrate SGA for SSDI.


A medically determinable impairment (MDI) is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. The MDI must be established by medical evi

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement