The Social Security Administration Doesn’t Consider Me Autistic

Being HFA or AS at over 50 but less than 62 in the USA

Seth Underwood
6 min readJul 19, 2021
Photo by Isai Ramos on Unsplash

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s (also known as HFA) via martial counselling during my early 40s. When I was 48 to 49, I started to suffer from chronic migraines. At the time I was an accountant at a non-profit organization working in a medium size office. They accommodated both my Asperger’s and migraine issues as per the American Disabilities Act. They allowed me to work from home and provided advance leave. They bent over backwards for me. But the migraines increased in frequency, and treatments were not working. My work gave me a choice of finding something else to do in the building or a severance package with the option of early retirement. I took the latter.

My wife, who was working part time as a home health aide, and then secured a job with an elder care facility to ensure we continued our health care coverage. Work gave me the option of filing for long-term disability, but when I reviewed the plan, it noted headaches/migraines weren’t covered.

So, I filed with the Social Security Administration for disability. Which was denied like all first-time applicants. So, I appealed to an administrative judge (i.e., the judge). Then the pandemic happened, and everything got delayed.

My neighbor across the street, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s (AS) or HFA (High-Functioning Autistic), was telling me I was going to get a truckload of money from the SSA. I wasn’t that optimistic. He has an anxiety comorbidity that causes him to get overly excited about something and then stays awake for a long time. Then he crashes asleep at some point. Unfortunately for him standard treatments haven’t been that successful, and he’s turned to more homeopathic measurers. Despite having the same mental diagnosis, I don’t have the same comorbidities (except the diabetes we share). Most of my comorbidities are physical, like a developing lower back stenosis.

This made the difference between the appeal results. He won his, but I lost mine.

The first point I lost on was with my Asperger’s, among the other physical problems from the stenosis to the chronic migraines. The Code of Federal Regulation describes Autism Spectrum Disorder (i.e., ASD) which Asperger’s (AS) or HFA would fall under as:

8. Autism spectrum disorder (12.10).

a. These disorders are characterized by qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, verbal, and nonverbal communication skills, and symbolic or imaginative activity; restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities; and stagnation of development or loss of acquired skills early in life. Symptoms and signs may include, but are not limited to, abnormalities and unevenness in the development of cognitive skills; unusual responses to sensory stimuli; and behavioral difficulties, including hyperactivity, short attention span, impulsivity, aggressiveness, or self-injurious actions.

b. Examples of disorders that we evaluate in this category include autism spectrum disorder with or without accompanying intellectual impairment, and autism spectrum disorder with or without accompanying language impairment.

c. This category does not include the mental disorders that we evaluate under neurocognitive disorders (12.02), intellectual disorder (12.05), and neurodevelopmental disorders (12.11).

The judge found me to be “pleasant” and thus not having ASD according to Decision Rationale. Wow… so autistic people are absolute jerks to everyone. Good to know. Also, I didn’t realize Donald Trump was autistic. Many people called him a jerk as well.

You’ll note that I’m supposed to have “behavioral difficulties.” Some of us on the spectrum should be “aggressive” according to the Code of Federal Regulations. It’s a shame I couldn’t have my wife of 24 years give testimony or the years of therapy notes put into the record. Even my psychiatrist who I meet online every three months for a medicine check submitted testimony that I was “good natured.” And this man has copies of all my therapy notes.

Buh Duh, I’m good natured! I am this way around strangers. Being a long term untreated AS, I’ve had plenty of time to develop behavioral masks on my own. Then I get home and melt down. My wife and family are there when I crash. Funny how there’re no drugs to control this, except sedatives.

So, that was my first strike. But that wasn’t the only thing the Judge found. He found according to 20 CFR 404.1567(b) I had “residual function” to do light work despite the chronic migraines and other medical issues. But in review of my previous work as an accountant, I couldn’t perform that kind of work anymore physically because of my medical conditions.

I know you are asking yourself right now- “WTF?” I do not know how he came to that reasoning either, despite me rereading the decision several times. But that’s how it went down, and that was strike two against me.

Then by asking the jobs expert in attendance, the judge discovered three jobs currently in the U.S. economy that would meet the standards of something like my accounting work physically (i.e., sitting on my ass all day) and only required a high school diploma (because I was now over 50 and educationally useless in the economic sense).

That was the last strike against me, and I was out.

So, between the fact I was “pleasant”, medically had some residual abilities, and there were three dead-end jobs that aren’t in my region, I’m not disabled.

Oh, I can’t work in accounting because I’m disabled with that kind of work.

Now I’m stuck until I can claim Social Security. All I can do is work within my limitations. Right now, I feel a lot of solidarity with workers who go through being laid off and unable to find work because they only have one skill set, and re-tooling is an expensive option.

Now I could appeal to the Appeals Council, then after that it’s off to the US Federal Courts. But in doing this next appeal I’m saying this judge was an idiot and knows nothing. Sure, my attorney could argue how could I be disabled for one kind of work but not the others. But reading how the decision counts you out, any of those strikes rules me out. So, it doesn’t matter if my attorney argues the point because, according to the judge, I’m not autistic or have any other physical disability preventing me from doing work. My attorney would have to attack all three points. Which is difficult due to the cited law for a couple of them.

After looking online at for Asperger Federal cases against the SSA, I discovered many have not gone in favor of the claimant. Only in bizarre situations have US Federal Courts ruled in favor of the claimant, and typically it was for the SSA to reconsider their decision.

Let’s face it, the rest of the neurotypical world think we HFA or AS people are totally functional like them. Look at Elon Musk. He’s a billionaire and famous. It’s not like you can be mentally dysfunctional and be a billionaire at the same time, right?

So, I told the attorney to forget the appeal, and luckily for me I owed him nothing per our contract. That’s my story, and it sucks for some of us AS people.

Makes me want the US President to hand out more of those stimulus checks as substitute UBI payments. Especially since the Mental Disorders are to sunset in the law on January 17, 2022, for Social Security Disability Impairment unless “revised or promulgated again.”

(Why the VW Bug Picture… because it’s evidently an old 1960s VW Bug. As in over 50 years old, and still looks working to me. But who knows if it has an engine in it?)

A link to a comment I wrote concerning another story dealing Autism/AS. Get’s into the reality of what combining the two disorders has actually done.



Seth Underwood

54+ autistic, undiagnosed dyslexic, sufferer of chronic migraines, writer of dark science fiction, player of video games and Mike Pondsmith Fan. Race- Human.