Consult your doc and join a support group before returning to work—to meet folks who’ve made the leap, GMHC’s Jeff Rindler told us. “Deciding not to re-enter the job market after weighing the pros and cons might be the most loving thing you can do for yourself.”
Volunteering is a great way to test the waters, Rindler said. “Start two days a week and see how it feels to get up and work four or five hours in a row.”
Check with your insurer or ASO (www.thebody.com/hotlines/other.html) to learn how new income will affect your benefits. If you’re on public assistance, contact your state’s Benefits Planning Assistance Outreach Program (BPAO) at www.-yourtickettowork.com/bpao or 866.968.7842.
Find job-readiness training at your local ASO or a Social Security employment network at www.yourtickettowork.com/endir or 866.968.7842. Back-to-work programs help sharpen your resume, confidence and interview outfit.
Do not disclose your HIV status. “If candidates are equal, employers will choose the one who’s not positive, so they don’t have to worry about health or ability to handle the work,” said GMHC assistant director of legal services and advocacy Debra Wolf. The law prohibits asking applicants anything unrelated to job suitability, such as HIV status.
Prepare to explain the gaps in your résumé. “If you took classes or pursued an artistic interest, talk about that,” Wolf said. “Don’t lie—but consider ways to avoid answering directly.”
“Once you’re hired, don’t disclose unless you have to,” Wolf said. “If you’re requesting special accommodation, medical leave or disability, see a counselor first to ensure your privacy.”
See your doctor regularly, reporting any symptoms. If you’re called to a Continuing Disability Review, the records will substantiate your condition.
Beware Social Security overpayments. If you return to work, you could get erroneous checks—and have to repay.
Take sick days as needed. After 12 months at work, the Family Medical Leave Act (www.fmla.gov) allows employees up to 12 weeks’ medical leave.