CPP fails people living with HIV

Today thousands of survivors of HIV/AIDS on medical benefits/income support are doing much better. They would like to return to employment. They want to become full contributing citizens again, finding employment, performing a job or returning to a profession.

They are in this position largely due to huge advances in medical treatment, that has slowed the ravages of HIV, in many cases brought them back from the brink. Their immune systems are strong, viral loads are small or undetectable.

Many of these people on private insurance can return work. They have not needed to collect Canada Pension plan payments due to the good insurance they held. Those others, the vast majority have had to rely on welfare - income support programs to put a roof over their heads and to buy life's necessities like food, clothing, transportation, and over the counter medications not covered by provincial phama plans.

The provincial plans differ from province to province and in some cases city to city. Generally the value of these programs provide $300 to 5oo for housing, 200 to 300 for food, 100 for other things, like telephone, transportation, heat, lights etc. and maybe a nutritional allowance of 40 to 200 dollars. HIV meds and other medications are covered in full generally with the requirement for co-pay.

Once on this provincial plan you are required to apply for Canada Pension benefits. Anything received from CPP is then deducted from the provincial plan payment. Generally CPP payments come close to the total amount received on the provincial plan.

So after years of being on HIV meds, battling back to good health, you want to return to work, easy right? Its what we would like people to do if they can right?

The answer is right of course. So why are many apparently healthy HIV/AIDS folks remaining on the dole? Its the rules around CPP. If you collect it for a disability, and you return to work, you can't come back to it if your health makes it impossible to continue working. These people are in a catch 22. Once CPP is given up, its darn near impossible to get back.

What's the answer? It would seem all we need to do is change the rules around CPP. We could do that if you want to amend the constitution! That's not likely so we need a new plan. Many people in the HIV/AIDS support agencies are trying to find a solution to this problem, perhaps a new federal program? CPP isn't working for people with HIV/AIDS and its likely its not working for other people as well. We need a solution and a federal government willing to help make it happen.

more to come...

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