How to Get Disability Benefits for Asperger’s Syndrome
If you’re living with the significant social challenges that come with Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hindering your ability to hold down a job, consider this: Social Security Disability benefits might be a good option to help you get by.
These benefits could ease the stress of dealing with your condition and help with the financial burden of not being able to work.
And you’d be far from alone.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reported that in 2015 almost 3.6 million people received benefits related to mental health conditions.
They made up more than a third of total Social Security Disability recipients.
Your Life with Asperger’s
Asperger’s syndrome used to be considered its own separate medical condition. But today, it’s grouped with other related conditions under “autism spectrum disorders.”
It’s a developmental brain disorder that affects the way you see and interact with the world around you. It often causes problems relating to other people.
You might find it distressing if events don’t follow a set routine. You might have difficulty understanding the perspectives or emotions of other people you encounter.
Asperger’s can make you awkward in social situations.
Asperger’s and the Workplace
The difficulty in dealing with others and strong need for specific routines can make it difficult for some people with Asperger’s to function in jobs.
Relating to co-workers and adjusting to changing plans and conditions come with the territory of most jobs.
Social Security maintains a “blue book” listing of impairments, outlining how it defines autism spectrum disorders for the purposes of deciding Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
The agency says your disorder must impact your:
• Social interaction
• Ability to focus on activities outside your immediate interests
So you have to demonstrate how your condition limits your daily activities, your ability to handle social situations and your ability to focus on assigned tasks.
Other Mental Health Conditions You May Face
If you can’t show your condition matches Social Security’s listing of impairments, you still have to show that your symptoms keep you from being reasonably able to find work and stay employed.
Depression or anxiety often accompany Asperger’s, according to many reports.
Those conditions can also negatively impact your ability to work. And Social Security recognizes them as official impairments.
With the right medical documentation, depression and anxiety along with Asperger’s can qualify you for disability benefits.
Benefits for Children with Asperger’s
In addition to your medical condition, your work history and financial situation help determine your disability qualifications.
Adults with Asperger’s who do not have enough work credits from past employment to qualify for SSDI may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), also run by Social Security.
For SSI, you have to demonstrate you have limited income and assets.
And SSI provides benefits for children under 18 with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.
Children aren’t expected to have a long work history, like adults who receive SSDI.
For your child to qualify for SSI benefits, you need to provide medical evidence showing an autism spectrum disorder, and that the impairment affects the child’s:
• Learning ability
• Ability to complete age-appropriate tasks
• Interaction with others
• Ability to care for oneself
• Ability to do basic functions without attention from a parent or caregiver
The SSA doesn’t require children with Asperger’s to demonstrate the “restricted repertoire of activities and interests” that it looks for in adults with this disorder.
If your child is granted SSI benefits, he or she will be reevaluated when they become an adult to see if they qualify for adult disability benefits.
What You Need to Prove Your Case
The severity of your condition, and how it affects your ability to work — or for a child to function at school and take care of himself — are what you need to prove to win benefits.
Medical evidence is the foundation on which a successful disability application is built.
The most important evidence will be from medical professionals who have treated you.
Without that, an examiner reviewing your case may not appreciate the limitations of Asperger’s.
Evidence from others can help, too.
That includes testimony from family members, friends, coworkers and others who can tell examiners how Asperger’s affects your ability to handle common situations, deal with others and work.
Get Professional Help with Your Application
The most critical part of your application for benefits is presenting carefully prepared evidence that clearly demonstrates the specific challenges your Asperger’s is causing.
Getting a professional involved to help you prepare that evidence and build your case — like a lawyer who focuses on Social Security Disability cases — can make a real difference for you.
Lawyers who are experienced with Social Security cases know the system and how it works.
They can help you avoid mistakes and make sure you receive the maximum benefits possible.
Applications based on mental disorders can be challenging to prove — compared with easily visible physical impairments — so having an experienced lawyer working for you increases your chances of getting the benefits you deserve.
Most Social Security law firms are paid the same. They only get paid when you win, and only a portion of the back benefits you’re awarded.
Most Social Security Disability law firms, including my firm serving the Chicago area, will give you a consultation on your case for free.
Tom Nash started his law firm, Nash Disability Law , in 1989. He and his wife, Ann, lead a team of 14 lawyers and 35 support professionals helping people with health problems in the Chicago area win Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits when they can’t work.