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Do Adults with Autism Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?


An adult who suffers from autism may qualify for both Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as long as they have paid into the Social Security system. A Tennessee attorney can ensure that an applicant's qualifications meet guidelines established by the Social Security Administration.

Adults with Autistic Disorder

Autism is a disorder that is usually present from birth and diagnosed by the time a child is about three years old. It typically affects a person's learning abilities, as well as their communication, personal and social skills. Adults with autism may qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if they have a work history and have paid taxes into the Social Security system.

The Social Security Administration has a manual, called the blue book, that lists all recognized disabilities. Both physical and mental impairments listed in the blue book will automatically qualify an individual for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When an adult, 18 years old or older, files a claim for disability benefits based on autism, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review the condition requirements listed in the blue book, however they don't have to be an exact match to receive benefits.

To evaluate an autism disability, the SSA will consider an applicant's impairment based on restrictions to perform routine daily work activities, as well as problems with learning and concentration, communication skills, social interactions, and restrictions with activities and interests. A number of different types of tests, including the results of psychological tests for logic and intelligence, can be used as evidence to support a disability claim for adult autism.

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration evaluates the effects that a disability has on a claimant's ability to work. When filing for disability benefits, it's important to have documented medical evidence that supports the disability and impairments. For adults with autism, the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test are commonly used to support SSDI claims.

SSA disability claim examiners look for detailed doctors' notes on what activities a disability claimant is and isn't capable of performing. If a doctor doesn't accurately document limitations caused by the disability, claim examiners may assume that those limitations don't exist. Before filing a disability claim, a claimant should speak with his/her doctor and express the importance of documenting impairments and functional limitations in the medical records. A Tennessee attorney who handles Social Security disability cases can work directly with a claimant's doctor to make sure functional limitations are properly documented. Medical evidence should include:

  • Medical Records - It's important to gather all medical records that are pertinent to the disability claim. In some cases, medical records can be submitted along with the disability application. Medical records should document all functional limitations and pain symptoms that impair the patient's ability to perform work, daily tasks, and physical activities.
  • All Impairments - All physical and mental conditions that impair functional abilities should be clearly documented. Most disability cases are won on the basis of detailed evidence that supports impairment. This may include several conditions, rather that one single condition that impacts a person's abilities.
  • Doctor's Statement - A statement from a doctor outlining the affects of painful conditions and functional limitations usually has a positive impact on a disability claim. In adult autism cases, documented evidence that shows problems with cognitive abilities, as well as personal and social skills is usually necessary.

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