Families can often make sacrifices to support their children and make sure they live joyful and productive lives. When a family has an autistic child, sometimes those sacrifices financially increase in order to improve their child’s quality of life through needs such as doctor visits and therapy. Luckily, the Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to help those families with the medical and living costs of getting help for autism. As the application process can have its ups and downs, fully understanding it can be extremely useful to successfully file a disability claim.

Disability Benefit Programs

The Social Security Administration offers two types of disability benefits programs to help families and individuals: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.

  • Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) covers disabled people who have been able to work for a certain amount of time. To qualify, you will need to show where you have worked and for how long. This will prove that you have worked for long enough and paid Social Security taxes. This makes SSDI a benefits program best suited for adults.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is intended for elderly and disabled people with low income. Children are usually good candidates for SSI because you don’t need to have had a job to qualify. You will be asked to submit finances for evaluation. For children under 18 years, parents will be asked to submit part of their finances too. This is called ‘parental deeming.’ http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssi/qualify-for-ssi

    Medical Eligibility

    The first step towards receiving disability benefits is matching the Social Security Administration’s definition of ‘disabled.’ There are different definitions for children and adults.

    For children under 18 years old:

    • They must not be working a job that is considered to be ‘substantial work’; and
    • They have a medical condition which very seriously limits their activities; and
    • The condition will last for at least one year.

    For Adults:

    • They can’t do the type work that they did before;
    • They can’t do other types of work because of their medical condition; and
    • The condition will last for at least one year.

    Once you meet one of these definitions, the next step is matching another set of rules just about autism.  This information is found in a book of all medical conditions the Social Security Administration calls disabilities. This reference is called the ‘Blue Book’ and it has separate sections for adults and children.

    For children, autism is found in the blue book in Section 112.10, Mental Disorders. To meet the listing, you will need to show that the child’s social and communication skills and other activities are delayed for their age. http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/autism-and-social-security-disability

    For adults, the requirements are very similar, but are found in the adult section of the blue book in Section 12.10, Mental Disorders. Besides showing the signs of autism, adults also have to show they have trouble with concentration, social interactions, or daily activities.

    How to Prepare

    Before you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, you need to make sure you have all the required information, both medical and financial.

    This mostly includes medical information that will help your case. Try to get doctor’s notes, results from medical tests, and information about any therapies. Of course, a diagnosis from the doctor will help too. For children, ask for statements from teachers or other professionals who can see how autism affects them.

    You will also need the financial or work-related information for the benefit program you’re applying for: SSI or SSDI. If you are very detailed on the application and bring as much information as you can, you may have a better chance of being approved.

    Application Process for Autism

    The application process is a little bit different for adults and children. Applications for children must be done during a meeting with someone who works for the Social Security Administration. Applications for adults can be done during a meeting too, but you may also just fill out the forms online.

    To apply, first make sure you have gathered the information previously discussed, like medical information and doctor’s notes. Then, either contact the Social Security Administration to make an appointment or begin filling out the forms online, if the application is for an adult.

    When applying for SSI benefits for a child with Autism, you will have to complete the application during an in person interview at a Social Security Administration office. To begin, simply schedule an appointment. Then, the Social Security Administration will review all of the information and perform an assessment to determine whether or not it will award benefits.

    The whole process can take at least a few months or longer before you hear back. Many times, the Social Security Administration will reject the application because it is incomplete or didn’t match the requirements.

    If this happens to you, don’t worry. You can appeal the decision, as long as you do it within 60 days. You may want to consider hiring a disability advocate to help you prepare and present your application. These advocates, many of whom are attorneys, have a lot of experience with the application process and can help you make sure yours is complete and has all of the right information.

    Now It’s Your Turn

    Successfully receiving disability benefits for autism can be accomplished by accurately completing the application process. These benefits can be helpful when it comes to paying for therapies and other treatments, or simply affording daily expenses that become difficult when families are unable to work.

    Once you have chosen the right benefit program for you, the key is to make sure you have as much information as possible that shows how your case matches the autism requirements. Remember that the application process can be very lengthy and you may need to seek the help of a disability advocate to present your case. Either way, these disability benefits can be quite beneficial in providing families with the aid they need to stay healthy.