Analysis by Budget and Legislative Analyst shows that a discrete population of long-term HIV survivors are approaching age 65, at which point their private disability insurance will end, leading to a significant drop in income and resulting housing instability
San Francisco – At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener will call for a hearing to discuss the expected financial needs created by the increase of people living with HIV/AIDS who will lose their private disability insurance as they become eligible for Social Security benefits. The Budget and Legislative Analyst recently released a report quantifying the number of people estimated to be impacted and the financial support needed.
In the 1980s and 1990s – before effective treatment for HIV existed – many gay men with HIV who were employed and became disabled left the workforce and accessed their private disability benefits. While some reentered the workforce after protease inhibitors became available, others did not. Private disability insurance typically ends once a person is eligible for social security at age 65, and social security typically provides a significantly lower monthly benefit than private policies. As a result, as long-term HIV survivors reach 65, many will experience a significant income drop and may not be able to afford their housing. This will increase displacement and homelessness.
The percentage of San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS who are 50 years or older has increased by more than 100% since 2004 and now comprises 55% of the total population of HIV-positive people living. Supervisor Wiener is calling for action now to prevent potential negative outcomes in the future – particularly loss of housing due to this drop in income – for San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS.
At the hearing, Supervisor Wiener will ask both the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office and community organizations to report on the projected number of San Franciscans who will be affected, as well as the fiscal impact that losing private disability insurance will have on each of these individuals.
“Our community of long-term HIV survivors went to hell and back as their community unraveled around them,” said Supervisor Wiener. “These survivors have remained a vital part of our city, and we owe it to them to ensure that, after surviving through all these years of the
epidemic, they don’t turn 65 only to lose their housing. This analysis provides us with a policy tool to guide us through policy and budget discussions about how to ensure that that these San Franciscans remain stable in their housing and part of our community.”
According to the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s report, the annual income of people living with HIV/AIDS on private disability insurance is expected to drop by an average of 40% when they become eligible for Social Security. As a result, the percentage of these individuals’ monthly income that would go towards rent would increase from 45% to 74%.
Supervisor Wiener has been working with various community based organizations to address this looming challenge.
“One of the biggest stressors on a population aging with HIV is the looming income drop for those on Private Disability Insurance,” said Tez Anderson, Founder of LetsKickASS.org - AIDS Survivor Syndrome. “Most survivors never expected to live long enough to transition to Social Security. Many of our clients’ biggest concerns are the threat of eviction, secure affordable housing, and becoming homeless. It is vital to do everything we can do to keep people in stable housing and in treatment to meet the city’s goal of ending HIV infections and HIV-related deaths.’”
According to Bill Hirsh, Executive Director of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel: “We are concerned that people who lose their long term disability insurance income will arrive at our office with an eviction notice and be in imminent danger of becoming homeless. With planning and resources from the City we can prevent this new wave of evictions and keep long term survivors of the epidemic in San Francisco and in their homes.”
The hearing will take place at the Budget and Finance Committee.