Although it is more difficult to qualify for disability benefits based on a learning disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does provide criteria to do so. Learning disabilities are disorders characterized by differences in how the brain receives information, processes that information, and communicates. In general, whether claimants are awarded benefits depends on the severity of an individual’s condition and the impact it has on his or her life.
Learning disability benefits are easier for children than adults to prove. That is largely because SSA will question why your disability keeps you from being able to work currently if you were able to before you applied. In adult claims for learning disability benefits, the residual functional capacity of the individual will be given great weight in determining his or her ability to hold a full-time position.
Although it is easier to obtain benefits based on a learning disability for a child, it is by no means a guarantee. SSA presents its criteria to be approved for learning disability benefits in its Listing of Impairments. The Listing in this instance deals with neurodevelopmental disorders.
To meet the established criteria to qualify for learning disability benefits, the child must face significant difficulties using academic skills and learning. Additionally, he or she must be extremely limited in one or severely limited in two of the following areas: 1) interacting with others; 2) managing oneself; 3) concentrating on tasks and maintaining pace; and 4) understanding, remembering, or applying information.
Interacting with others includes the ability to maintain friendships, understand social cues, handle conflicts, and cooperate. Managing oneself includes the ability to adapt oneself in various situations. Concentrating tasks and maintain space includes the ability to work close to others without distracting them, ignore or avoid distractions, and complete tasks in a timely manner. Understanding, remembering, and applying information includes the ability to solve problems, follow instructions, and use reason to make decisions.
It is difficult to meet the above criteria because children with IQs higher than 70 generally will not be extremely limited in any one category, and most children will not be severely limited in two categories.
SSA will look closely at the child’s ability to interact socially, move and manipulate objects, attend to and complete tasks, handle his or her own self-care, and acquire and use information. It will review IQ tests, IEP and 504 plans, school reports, and progress notes from medical professionals.
It is crucial to back up your learning disability claim with thorough documentation that not only explains the impairment but also points to how the impairment affects the individual’s daily existence. Sometimes, SSA will ask that the child be given a psychological consultative exam to evaluate his or her current level of functioning. If the child suffers from multiple impairments, SSA will take the collective impact of all of them into account when determining benefits eligibility.