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Can My Child Qualify for Social Security Benefits with Autism?


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There are few things more troubling than seeing your child or children struggle with serious impairments that limits what they can do. Perhaps the only thing worse may be being unable to provide the support and education they need to reach their full potential. However, the United States government through the Social Security Administration makes benefits programs available to people, or their dependents, with serious impairments or disabilities. These cash benefits can be utilized to support the child’s growth and development.

While every condition and situation is different, to qualify for program benefits you must meet the program’s requirements (non-medical) and the medical requirements. Consulting with an experienced Fayetteville AR disability lawyer, like Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, can help you understand if your child is likely to qualify for benefits due to his or her serious condition.

What is Autism?

Autism refers to a class of conditions that is often referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Autism disorders can cause problems with communication, social interaction, and behaviors and interests.  While the exact pattern and severity of the condition varies from person to person, more than 3.5 million Americans are impacted with some form of autism with 1 of of every 68 children being impacted. Autism-related conditions include Asperger’s syndrome, autism disorder, Rhett’s syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder.

Can My Child Qualify with His or Her Autism Spectrum Condition?

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program can distribute cash benefits to those who meet both program and medical requirements. To satisfy the programs non-medical contributions one must have a qualifying disability, be blind, or have reached age 65 or greater. Additionally, to qualify for childhood benefits you child must not have income or resources that exceed certain amounts. In a childhood context, the income and resources of household members can be included in your child’s calculation.

As for the adjudication of the claim, all Social Security benefit claims are determined through the sequential evaluation process. For childhood applications the process is a 3-step one. At the first step of the process your child’s benefit application will be analyzed for substantial gainful activity. For the first step to be satisfied, the child cannot be working. While adults are permitted a certain level of SGA – children are not. SGA can include:

  • Work that you are paid to do
  • Work that a person received monetary compensation
  • Work where the goal is to make a profit

The first step of the process must be satisfied before the Social Security Administration will analyze your child’s medical condition.

Medical Evaluation at Steps 2 & 3 of the Sequential Process

At step two of the process, the Social Security Administration determines if your child’s condition can be considered severe. While impairments that are not severe will not cause functional limitations or cause only slight limitations, a severe disability will impose real limits and restrictions on your activities of daily living. If the SSA determines your condition to be of a sufficient level of seriousness, you will proceed to the third and final step of the evaluation process.

At the third step, the SSA determines if your condition is a listed condition. The childhood conditions are located in Part B of the “Blue Book”. However a simple diagnosis of a condition that is listen is not sufficient. The severity of your condition must also be of the minimum severity as described in the listing. Autism-related conditions include:

  • 110.08 Catastophic Cogenital disorder
  • 111.06 Motor dysfunction
  • 111.09 Communication impairment associated with documented neurological disorder
  • 112.08 Personality Disorders
  • 112.10 Autistic Disorder and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders

To be clear, individuals must inquire into the particular requirements for each listing and compare their child’s condition. If the child’s condition is at least as severe as the listed requirements, he or she is likely to receive benefits.

Even if your child does not have a listed condition, he or she may still qualify if his or her condition or combination of conditions are functionally equal. To determine if the condition is functionally equal, the SAA looks at your childhood functioning across multiple areas of life. These are known as domains. If your child has a marked limitation in two domains or an extreme limitation in one, they will qualify. The domains the SSA will analyze are:

  • Attending to and completing tasks
  • Caring for self
  • Mobility and ability to manipulate objects
  • Maintaining one’s health and physical well-being
  • Acquiring and using information
  • Interacting and relating with others

Ken Kieklak offers dedicated representation to Arkansans who are dealing with a serious disability. Regardless of whether your child has an autism spectrum disorder order or another type of impairment, Social Security benefits lawyer Ken Kieklak can fight to obtain benefits for you and your family. To schedule your confidential and free initial consultation, contact us online or call (479) 316-0438 today.

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