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Disability Employment Policy Resources by Topic

Employment and Living with HIV/AIDS Toolkit

Individuals Living with HIV/AIDS

Contemplation: Considering Making Life Changes to Enter or Change Employment

The key message at this stage is that contemplation begins the process of considering work by answering the question, "What — if any — change is possible?"  As with all four stages of considering work (in addition to contemplation, these stages include preparation, action and resolution), this message needs to be considered in the context of four key factors:   


Medical

Questions to ask

  • Does considering work make sense medically?
  • What recommendations or considerations do my health care providers have to help me make decisions about working?
  • Are there any jobs I cannot perform because of my HIV status and/or other disabilities or health conditions?

Whom to ask

Health care providers, counselors/case managers

Decision-making required

Consider your strengths and challenges, for example:

  • Improved health
  • Physical capacity or limitations (energy, stamina, dexterity, and concentration)

Resources  to assist

 

Legal/Financial

Questions to ask

  • How would employment affect my benefits or make me eligible for new ones?
  • How can I learn about and plan for any changes in benefits because of work?
  • How would my legal issues/history affect employment?
  • What help is available to address my legal issues/history?
  • Would getting a job be good for me based on my financial and legal situation?
  • Would I have a right to ask an employer to make a change (a reasonable accommodation) so I could fulfill all of the essential functions of the job?
  • Are there legal rights and protections against discrimination for people living with HIV/AIDS and other disabilities?

Whom to ask

Counselors/case managers, legal advocates, benefits counselors, community work incentives coordinators, vocational and career counselors

Decision-making required

Learn about your local Work Incentive Planning and Assistance program (WIPA) to find the community work incentives coordinators (CWIC) in your area. CWICs can help SSI and SSDI recipients make informed decisions by:

  • Helping you understand if and how earnings from a job will change your benefits, including providing a written report
  • Advising you with individualized benefits planning, covering:
  • SSI/SSDI
  • Housing supports
  • Food stamps
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) benefits
  • Medicaid and Medicare

CWICs also provide information and help for economic resource programs such as the Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) program and Individual Development Accounts/IDAs.

Learn about the Social Security Administration's overview of SSI and SSDI work incentives in the agency's Red Book.

Consider whether you face legal issues related to employment and strategize to minimize them. For example:

  • Incarceration history
  • Immigration issues
  • Child support
  • Credit/debt/tax issues
  • Eligibility for health insurance, benefits, and housing subsidies

Consider legal protections and policies that address discrimination, confidentiality, and reasonable accommodation, such as:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Workforce Investment Act of 1988

Resources  to assist

 

Psychosocial

Questions to ask

  • What is my support network for considering work?
  • Are people who are important in my life encouraging or discouraging me from considering work?
  • Do I have the housing stability I need to successfully prepare for and maintain employment?
  • If not, how could I obtain stable housing?
  • Am I held back from making changes due to fear or anxiety about HIV stigma or discrimination, or about change itself?
  • Do I have supports, care and treatment for my emotional and mental health, drug and alcohol issues?
  • Are there ways to meet my parenting and family responsibilities while preparing for and starting work?

Whom to ask

Therapists, counselors/case managers, family, friends, spiritual advisors, support groups, 12-step program sponsors

Decision-making required

Things to consider include:

  • Ongoing support from family and friends
  • Community engagement
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Vocational and career counseling
  • Substance use assessment
  • Treatment resources and support for recovery
  • Spiritual/faith community support

Resources  to assist

 

Vocational

Questions to ask

  • How can my current skills, education, experience and training apply to becoming employed?
  • Are programs and resources available to enhance my skills, education, experience and training?
  • Are programs and resources available to help me consider work and get a job?
  • What have people with my functional limitations done to get a job?
  • Can someone with HIV do the kinds of jobs I might pursue?
  • Do I need to tell an employer that I have HIV/AIDS?

Whom to ask

Family, friends, former co-workers, vocational and career counselors

Decision-making required

Most of us underestimate our strengths and qualifications as job candidates. Inventory your skills and background to identify those strengths. Find help from others in your network to make the inventory comprehensive. Include paid and unpaid experience: for example, volunteer work, internships, raising children, managing a household, and managing the complexities of living with HIV/AIDS.

Find out if HIV/AIDS service providers in your area offer help with employment.

Learn about eligibility for Ticket to Work, workforce development and vocational rehabilitation programs.

Resources  to assist