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What is 'intellectual disability' in applying for SSDI benefits?

Previous posts here have addressed certain psychological conditions, ranging from schizophrenia to depression and anxiety disorders, when discussing how the Social Security Administration evaluates claims for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. There is another category of conditions that the SSA recognizes may qualify someone for disability benefits. The SSA refers to these conditions with the perhaps more appropriate label of 'intellectual disability.'

As we often do, we will turn to the SSA's blue book for a description of the elements the administration looks for when evaluating applications based on intellectual disability. There are four sets of characteristics that inform the SSA's analysis of applications for this particular type of mental illness.

First is that a person's intellectual functioning is such that the individual is dependent upon others for daily functioning, such as dressing or bathing, and has such difficulty in following instructions that measuring tests regarding the person's intellectual ability cannot be administered. The remaining three sets of characteristics do begin with a standardized assessment of intellectual functioning through a test of the person's 'intellectual quotient' or 'IQ.' For instance, an IQ score of less than 59 indicates a prima fascia case for disability may have been made. The last two categories rely on IQ scores between 60 and 70, but with additional evidence of limited ability to function, such as other physical or mental disabilities that also compromise the ability to work, or evidence of problems in maintaining social functioning or in concentration, persistence or pace.

While New Jersey, and our society in general, has come a long way in its treatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities, with certain specialized programs to assist them in creating somewhat independent lives for themselves, and a decrease in the social stigma attached to such conditions, not everyone with these types of disability will be able to support themselves. In cases such as these, SSDI benefits may well be crucial to the person's well-being.

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