October 16, 2018

Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability

Whether you are a child or an adult, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes learning disabilities as a condition that can pay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  The severity of the condition and its impact on an individual’s functioning can be key factors in receiving benefits.

In children’s Social Security disability claims, many aspects of the claim are examined.  These may include, but are not limited to:

  • IQ testing
  • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
  • 504 Plans
  • School grades
  • Teacher questionnaires
  • Medical Source Statements from treating physicians
  • Progress notes from treating sources

The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the SSA that contains specific information related to learning disabilities among other impairments.  The SSA also examines children’s cases under six domains of functioning to determine if a child is functionally equivalent to a listing.  The SSA will look for limitations in the child’s ability to acquire and use information, attend and complete tasks, interact socially, move and manipulate objects, handle their own self-care, or health and physical well-being.  Understanding a child’s Social Security Disability claim can be confusing, as the standard for disability can be different than that of an adult.

Adults can also receive Social Security Disability benefits for a learning disability.  The question of whether you can work with a learning disability can be a little tricky to prove to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  If you have worked in the past with your learning disability, the ALJ may wonder how it would currently prevent you from working if your condition has not gotten worse.  Sometimes, employers make “accommodations” for this type of worker.  This might be special treatment that the employer is unwilling to give to other workers.  This may include a job coach, multiple reminders of job duties, leaving work early, and allowing the worker to be off task more than other employees.

Like a child’s case, the criteria in the Listing of Impairments can be examined to determine a disabling condition.  For an adult, the children’s functional domains are not considered, but the residual functional capacity of an individual can be used to determine an adult’s ability to work.  Some of the things that can help an adult prove a learning disability that prevents them from working a full-time job can be, but are not limited to:

  • IQ testing
  • School records
  • Vocational rehabilitation records
  • Statements from employers
  • Medical Source Statements from treating physicians
  • Progress notes from physicians

It is important to remember that the SSA is required to consider all of your severe conditions.  In other words, if you have a learning disability accompanied by diabetes, asthma, back pain, or any other disabling condition, the SSA will consider all of these conditions in combination to determine if you are disabled.

Your inability to stay on task, to work and respond appropriately with coworkers and supervisors, and to remember job tasks, among other restrictions can make it difficult, if not impossible, to engage in full time employment without accommodations.  Filing your initial claim can be done at your local Social Security Administration office.  I generally tell my clients to apply as soon as possible as there may be benefits you miss out on if you wait too long.  There are different requirements for the SSI and SSDI programs, and the SSA can let you know which program you are eligible for.

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