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Intellectual Disability and Social Security Disability

Intellectual disability refers to a measured, below-average intelligence, to the extent that the individual lacks the skills necessary to perform basic daily functions. Intellectual disability is usually diagnosed during childhood and will persist throughout a person's entire lifetime. As with many conditions, the spectrum of intellectual disability can range from mild to debilitating.

Intellectual disability can be caused by many things, but genetics and problems related to pregnancy and birth are the most common causes.

Those with intellectual disabilities have a very low IQ, usually scoring less than 70. A diagnosis usually occurs after a medical professional has documented delays in learning, problem solving, memory, and speaking. In all but the most severe cases, these individuals can still learn these skills, but require much more time and practice in order to do so.

Because intellectual disability itself is not a disease, it is not treated as though it is an illness. Instead, children and adults with intellectual disabilities may need occupational or physical therapies, supervision, and specially tailored educational environments to help them succeed.

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits with an Intellectual Disability

The Social Security Administration evaluates intellectual disabilities in the Blue Book under section 12.05—Intellectual Disability, within the mental disorders category. The listing requires that one of the following be met in order to receive benefits:

  • Mental incapacity, as shown by a dependence on others for basic personal needs and inability to follow directions, such that the use of standardized measures of intellectual functioning is precluded.
  • A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 59 or less.
  • A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70 AND a physical or other mental impairment that imposes an additional and significant work-related functional limitation.
  • A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70, resulting in at least two of the following:
    • Marked restriction of activities of daily living
    • Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning
    • Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace
    • Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

If an individual with an intellectual disability doesn’t meet this listing, he or she may be eligible to qualify under a medical vocational allowance. This often occurs to disabled individuals who may not meet a Blue Book listing, but have a condition that reduces their functional capabilities to the point that they are unable to perform work.

Intellectual Disability Benefits Application

An individual who is unable to work and function independently due to an intellectual disability could very well be a candidate for Social Security Disability Benefits, provided their case can be clearly and objectively presented to the Social Security Administration.

For some, this may be difficult to do, especially when most first-time disability benefit applications are denied. Applications can be denied because they were incorrectly filled out or the documentation did not satisfy the medical requirements. Fortunately, there are attorneys who specialize in the Social Security Disability benefit application to help with the process. They offer consultations, can help individuals prepare the correct information, and will even present the information to Disability Determination Services on that person's behalf.

For a free legal evaluation, fill out the form here.