According to the Associated Press, the diagnosis of “Asperger’s disorder” is being dropped from the upcoming revision to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual being worked on by the American Psychiatric Association for publication in May of 2013.
However, parents of children or adults suffering from the impairment currently defined as Asperger’s have little reason to worry if they are currently receiving, or seeking benefits from the Social Security Administration. While Social Security does publish a list of diagnoses and certain findings, which if met by an individual will result in a finding of disability, this is only one of several ways an individual can be found disabled. For both children and adults, Social Security will also look at whether an individual’s impairments “equal” the requirements of a particular listing. That means that, even if the impairment does not precisely meet the requirements published by Social Security, if it is medically similar, it may still result in a finding that that individual qualifies for benefits.
In the case of Asperger’s, Social Security does not currently directly acknowledge the diagnosis anyway. The closest listing impairment for children and adults is “Autistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders.” Children and adults claiming disability based on Asperger’s are already evaluated under this listing.
Additionally, even if an impairment neither meets OR equals the requirements of a listing, for children, Social Security will continue the evaluation to determine whether the child’s impairments functionally equal a listing, that is, whether the child suffers from marked or extreme limitations in certain areas of functioning, regardless of the diagnosis. Similarly, for adults, the relevant question is whether, based on all of an individual’s impairments, they are unable to perform any of their past work or make an adjustment to other work in the national economy. Essentially, Social Security is not overly concerned with the diagnosis of a disease or impairment, as much as it is concerned with how that impairment impacts the individual’s ability to function on a daily basis.
So, while the name may be changing, individual’s suffering from the medical impairment formerly known as “Asperger’s Disorder,” may still be eligible for disability benefits.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.