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Donald H. Peters

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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection

  1. HIV infection is caused by a specific retrovirus and may be characterized by susceptibility to one or more opportunistic diseases, cancers, or other conditions, as described in 14.08. Any individual with HIV infection, including one with a diagnosis of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), may be found disabled under this listing if his or her impairment meets any of the criteria in 14.08 or is of equivalent severity to any impairment in 14.08.
  2. Definitions. In 14.08, the terms "resistant to treatment" "recurrent" and "disseminated" have the same general meaning as used by the medical community. The precise meaning of any of these terms will depend upon the specific disease or condition in question, the body system affected, the usual course of the disorder and its treatment, and the other circumstances of the case. "Resistant to treatment" means that a condition did not respond adequately to an appropriate course of treatment. Whether a response is adequate, or a course of treatment appropriate, will depend on the facts of the particular case. "Recurrent" means that a condition that responded adequately to an appropriate course of treatment has returned after a period of remission or regression. The extent of response (or remission) and the time periods involved will depend on the facts of the particular case. "Disseminated" means that a condition is spread widely over a considerable area or body system(s). The type and extent of the spread will depend on the specific disease. As used in 14.08I, "significant involuntary weight loss" does not correspond to a specific minimum amount or percentage of weight loss. Although, for purposes of this listing, an involuntary weight loss of at least 10 percent of baseline is always considered significant, loss of less than 10 percent may or may not be significant, depending on the individual's baseline weight and body habitus. (For example, a 7-pound weight loss in a 100-pound female who is 63 inches tall might be considered significant; but a 14-pound weight loss in a 200-pound female who is the same height might not be significant.)
  3. Documentation of HIV infection. The medical evidence must include documentation of HIV infection. Documentation may be by laboratory evidence or by other generally acceptable methods consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice.
    1. Documentation of HIV infection by definitive diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis of HIV infection is documented by one or more of the following laboratory tests:
      1. A serum specimen that contains HIV antibodies. HIV antibodies are usually detected by a screening test. The most commonly used screening test is the ELISA. Although this test is highly sensitive, it may yield false positive results. Therefore, positive results from an ELISA must be confirmed by a more definitive test (e.g., Western Blot, immunofluorescence assay).
      2. A specimen that contains HIV antigen (e.g., serum specimen, lymphocyte culture, or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimen).
      3. Other test(s) that are highly specific for detection of HIV (e.g., polymerase chain reaction (PCR)), or that are acceptable methods of detection consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge. When laboratory testing for HIV infection has been performed, every reasonable effort must be made to obtain reports of the results of that testing. Individuals who have HIV infection or other disorders of the immune system may undergo tests to determine T-helper lymphocyte (CD4) counts. The extent of immune depression correlates with the level or rate of decline of the CD4 count. In general, when the CD4 count is 200/mm3 or less (14 percent or less), the susceptibility to opportunistic disease is considerably increased. However, a reduced CD4 count alone does not establish a definitive diagnosis of HIV infection, or document the severity or functional effects of HIV infection.
    2. Other acceptable documentation of HIV infection. HIV infection may also be documented without the definitive laboratory evidence described in paragraph a, provided that such documentation is consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice and is consistent with the other evidence. If no definitive laboratory evidence is available, HIV infection may be documented by the medical history, clinical and laboratory findings, diagnosis(es) indicated in the medical evidence. For example, a diagnosis of HIV infection will be accepted without definitive laboratory evidence if the individual has an opportunistic disease (e.g., toxoplasmosis of the brain, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP)) predictive of a defect in cell-mediated immunity, and there is no other known cause of diminished resistance to that disease (e.g., long-term steroid treatment, lymphoma). In such cases, every reasonable effort must be made to obtain full details of the history, medical findings, and results of testing.
  4. Documentation of the manifestations of HIV infection. The medical evidence must also include documentation of the manifestations of HIV infection. Documentation may be by laboratory evidence or by other generally acceptable methods consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice.
    1. Documentation of the manifestations of HIV infection by definitive diagnosis. The definitive method of diagnosing opportunistic diseases or conditions that are manifestations of HIV infection is by culture, serological test, or microscopic examination of biopsied tissue or other material (e.g., bronchial washings). Therefore, every reasonable effort must be made to obtain specific laboratory evidence of an opportunistic disease or other condition whenever this information is available. If a histological or other test has been performed, the evidence should include a copy of the appropriate report. If the report is not obtainable, the summary of hospitalization or a report from the treating source should include details of the findings and results of the diagnostic studies (including radiographic studies) or microscopic examination of the appropriate tissues or body fluids. Although a reduced CD4 lymphocyte count may show that there is an increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections and diseases (see 14.00 D3a, above), that alone does not establish the presence, severity, or functional effects of a manifestation of HIV infection.
    2. Other acceptable documentation of the manifestations of HIV infection. Manifestations of HIV infection may also be documented without the definitive laboratory evidence described in paragraph a, provided that such documentation is consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice and is consistent with the other evidence. If no definitive laboratory evidence is available, manifestations of HIV infection may be documented by medical history, clinical and laboratory findings, and diagnosis(es) indicated in the medical evidence. In such cases, every reasonable effort must be made to obtain full details of the history, medical findings, and results of testing. Documentation of cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease (14.08D) presents special problems because diagnosis requires identification of viral inclusion bodies or a positive culture from the affected organ, and the absence of any other infectious agent. A positive serology test identifies infection with the virus, but does not confirm a disease process. With the exception of chorioretinitis (which may be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist), documentation of CMV disease requires confirmation by biopsy or other generally acceptable methods consistent with the prevailing state of medical knowledge and clinical practice.
  5. Manifestations specific to women. Most women with severe immunosuppression secondary to HIV infection exhibit the typical opportunistic infections and other conditions, such as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), candida esophagitis, wasting syndrome, cryptococcosis, and toxoplasmosis. However HIV infection may have different manifestations, in women than in men. Adjudicators must carefully scrutinize the medical evidence and be alert to the variety of medical conditions specific to or common in women with HIV infection that may affect their ability to function in the workplace. Many of these manifestations (e.g., vulvovaginal candidiasis, pelvic inflammatory disease) occur in women with or without HIV infection, but can be more severe or resistant to treatment, or occur more frequently in a woman whose immune system is suppressed. Therefore, when evaluating the claim of a woman with HIV infection, it is important to consider gynecologic and other problems specific to women, including any associated symptoms (e.g., pelvic pain), in assessing the severity of the impairment and resulting functional limitations. Manifestations of HIV infection in women may be evaluated under the specific criteria (e.g., cervical cancer under 14.08E), under an applicable general category (e.g., pelvic inflammatory disease under 14.08A5) or, in appropriate cases, under 14.08N.
  6. Evaluation. The criteria in 14.08 do not describe the full spectrum of diseases or conditions manifested by individuals with HIV infection. As in any case, consideration must be given to whether an individual's impairment(s) meets or equals in severity any other listing in appendix 1 of subpart P (e.g., a neoplastic disorder listed in 13.00ff). Although 14.08 includes cross-references to other listings for the more common manifestations of HIV infection, other listings may apply. In addition, the impact of all impairments, whether or not related to HIV infection, must be considered. For example, individuals with HIV infection may manifest signs and symptoms of a mental impairment (e.g., anxiety, depression), or of another physical impairment. Medical evidence should include documentation of all physical and mental impairments, and the impairment(s) should be evaluated not only under the relevant listing(s) in 14.08, but under any other appropriate listing(s). It is also important to remember that individuals with HIV infection, like all other individuals, are evaluated under the full five-step sequential evaluation process described in Section 404.1520 and Section 416.920. If an individual with HIV infection is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), or does not have a severe impairment, the case will be decided at the first or second step of the sequential evaluation process, and does not require evaluation under these listings. For an individual with HIV infection who is not engaging in SGA and has a severe impairment, but whose impairment(s) does not meet or equal in severity the criteria of a listing, evaluation must proceed through the final steps of the sequential evaluation process (or, as appropriate, the steps in the medical improvement review standard) before any conclusion can be reached on the issue of disability.
  7. Effect of treatment. Medical treatment must be considered in terms of its effectiveness in ameliorating the signs, symptoms, and laboratory abnormalities of the specific disorder, or of the HIV infection itself (e.g. antiretroviral agents) and in terms of any side effects of treatment that may further impair the individual. Response to treatment and adverse or beneficial consequences of treatment may vary widely. For example, an individual with HIV infection who develops pneumonia or tuberculosis may respond to the same antibiotic regimen used in treating individuals without HIV infection, but another individual with HIV infection may not respond to the same regimen. Therefore, each case must be considered on an individual basis, along with the effects of treatment on the individual's ability to function. A specific description of the drugs or treatment given (including surgery), dosage, frequency of administration, and a description of the complications or response to treatment should be obtained. The effects of treatment may be temporary or long term. As such, the decision regarding the impact of treatment should be based on a sufficient period of treatment to permit proper consideration.
  8. Functional criteria. Paragraph N of 14.08 establishes standards for evaluating manifestations of HIV infection that do not meet the requirements listed in 14.08A-M. Paragraph N is applicable for manifestations that are not listed in 14.08A-M, as well as those listed in 14.08A-M that do not meet the criteria of any of the rules in 14.08A-M. For individuals with HIV infection evaluated under 14.08N, listing-level severity will be assessed in terms of the functional limitations imposed by the impairment. The full impact of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings on the claimant's ability to function must be considered. Important factors to be considered in evaluating the functioning of individuals with HIV infection include, but are not limited to: symptoms, such as fatigue and pain; characteristics of the illness, such as the frequency and duration of manifestations or periods of exacerbation and remission in the disease course; and the functional impact of treatment for the disease, including the side effects of medication. As used in 14.08N, "repeated" means that the conditions occur on an average of 3 times a year, or once every 4 months, each lasting 2 weeks or more; or the conditions do not last for 2 weeks but occur substantially more frequently than 3 times in a year or once every 4 months; or they occur less often than an average of 3 times a year or once every 4 months but last substantially longer than 2 weeks. To meet the criteria in 14.08N, an individual with HIV infection must demonstrate a marked level of restriction in one of three general areas of functioning: activities of daily living; social functioning; and difficulties in completing tasks due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace. Functional restrictions may result from the impact of the disease process itself on mental or physical functioning, or both. This could result from extended or intermittent symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, or pain, resulting in a limitation of the ability to concentrate, to persevere at a task, or to perform the task at an acceptable rate of speed. Limitations may also result from the side effects of medication. When "marked" is used as a standard for measuring the degree of functional limitation, it means more than moderate, but less than extreme. A marked limitation does not represent a quantitative measure of the individual's ability to do an activity for a certain percentage of the time. A marked limitation may be present when several activities or functions are impaired or even when only one is impaired. However, an individual need not be totally precluded from performing an activity to have a marked limitation, as long as the degree of limitation is such as to seriously interfere with the ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively. The term "marked" does not imply that the impaired individual is confined to bed, hospitalized, or in a nursing home. Activities of daily living include, but are not limited to, such activities as doing, household chores, grooming and hygiene, using a post office, taking public transportation, and paying bills. An individual with HIV infection who, because of symptoms such as pain imposed by the illness or its treatment, is not able to maintain a household or take public transportation on a sustained basis or without assistance (even though he or she is able to perform some self-care activities) would have marked limitation of activities of daily living. Social functioning includes the capacity to interact appropriately and communicate effectively with others. An individual with HIV infection who, because of symptoms or a pattern of exacerbation and remission caused by the illness or its treatment, cannot engage in social interaction on a sustained basis (even though he or she is able to communicate with close friends or relatives) would have marked difficulty maintaining social functioning. Completing tasks in a timely manner involves the ability to sustain concentration, persistence, or pace to permit timely completion of tasks commonly found in work settings. An individual with HIV infection who, because of HIV-related fatigue or other symptoms, is unable to sustain concentration or pace adequate to complete simple work-related tasks (even though he or she is able to do routine activities of daily living) would have marked difficulty completing tasks.

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Call Social Security Professionals now to discuss your claim for free

You need no money to hire Attorney Donald H. Peters

(248) 549-3485
FREE CONSULTATION

Southfield Lawyer Donald Peters of the Law Office of Donald H. Peters, P.C. in Southfield, Michigan, handles Social Security Disability claims throughout Michigan and in the Tri-County Metro Detroit area including Detroit, Southfield, Novi, Warren, Royal Oak, Roseville, Livonia, Mount Clemens, Sterling Heights, Farmington Hills, Birmingham, Berkley, Oak Park, West Bloomfield, Ann Arbor, Eastpointe, Waterford, Flint, Canton, Taylor, Romulus, Westland, Clinton Township, Troy, Dearborn, Brighton, Howell, Pontiac, Rochester Hills,  as well as Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County, Ingham County, and Livingston County, Michigan.

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