Laurie, a single mother, lived in Sudbury with her 13-year-old son, Brian. 

In 2011, Laurie applied for SSI child disability benefits for Brian who is severely autistic. She decided to apply because she was having to take more and more time off work to take care of Brian and was hoping the extra benefits would help her make ends meet, but his application was denied.

Laurie came to MWLS for help. Attorney Margaretta Kroeger and Executive Director Elizabeth Soulé filed an appeal and represented Laurie and Brian at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. By the time of the hearing, Brian was now in the 10th grade and functioning at a 4th grade level. His high school teachers noticed that he did not have any friends at school, worked very slowly, had difficulty writing and processing information, and was unable even to state his full address or his telephone number. At the hearing, despite the evidence, the judge denied Brian’s benefits because he was “getting As and Bs” in his special education program so therefore must not have a severe disability.

Attorneys Kroeger and Soulé then filed an appeal in the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. Based solely on their brief, the case was sent back to the Social Security Administration, who ultimately found that Brian did qualify for SSI child disability benefits. In November 2017, 6.5 years after Laurie had applied for him, Brian was awarded over $50,000 in retroactive benefits and ongoing benefits. Brian is now 19 years old and in a job training program. The benefits are helping him access the extra support and services he needs to successfully transition to adulthood.