August 8, 2014

Social Security Disability Benefits for Learning Disabilities

Many of the children I represent in claims for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have been diagnosed with some type of learning disability.  While Social Security Administration (SSA)‘s Listing of Impairments does not specifically address learning disabilities, its evaluation process does consider the effects of learning disabilities on a child’s ability to function.

Some of the children I represent have learning disabilities related to mental impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Listing 112.11), mood disorders (Listing 112.04), anxiety disorders (Listing 112.06), or intellectual disabilities (Listing 112.05).  Other children have learning disabilities that are less easy to categorize, so Social Security evaluates them differently.  Once Social Security determines that a child’s impairments do not medically meet or equal one of its Listings, it then evaluates the child’s combination of impairments to see if he or she “functionally equals the listings.”  If the child has marked impairments in acquiring and using information,  attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating to others, moving about and manipulating objects, caring for himself, or health and physical well-being, Social Security may find the child meets its definition of disability.

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In order to show Social Security that your child is disabled, you first must show that he or she has a medically determinable impairment.  Helpful evidence includes:

  • Medical diagnoses and treatment notes
  • Therapy/counseling notes
  • Clinical test results
  • Other medical findings

Next, you must show how your child’s medically determinable impairments keep him or her from functioning at an age-appropriate level.  Evidence of these limitations includes:

  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
  • School grades
  • Results of standardized testing
  • Evaluations and treatment notes from occupational and physical therapy or other types of rehabilitation
  • School or day care discipline reports
  • Written comments from teachers regarding the child’s ability to work at grade level, complete assignments, work without supervision, and behave appropriately in a classroom environment

It is important to show that your child is receiving appropriate treatment for his or her condition and is compliant with taking medication.  Thorough medical records and school documentation are critical evidence to show that your child’s disability is severe.  Those records can help to show that your child’s treating doctors, therapists, and teachers have observed symptoms that support the severity of the functional limitations you allege.    Records from specialists (psychiatrists, for example) are typically given extra weight by Social Security’s evaluators, because specialists who have treated your child on a regular basis can provide the most knowledgeable information about how your child’s symptoms affect his or her ability to learn and develop.

Social Security’s Listing of Impairments addresses other children’s developmental disorders as well, including organic mental disorders, autism, and newborn or infant developmental disorders.

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