Thursday, May 08, 2008

Social Security Disability and Lowered IQ

I read a conversation recently in which a disability applicant described going to a mental treatment specialist and being diagnosed with cognitive memory disorder. Upon learning of the diagnosis, he said (this is a quote) "So I guess I'm basically a moron now". The treatment specialist (I use this term because I don't know if the individual was a psychologist or a psychiatrist) replied with "That depends on what your IQ was prior to your diagnosis.

The disability applicant found this humorous. However, in actuality, there is a concept involved in the social security disability process known as premorbid IQ. How does it come into play in the disability decision process?

It typically applies to organic brain syndrome (i.e. traumatic brain injury, closed head injuries) and can potentially result in a disability approval for a claimant whose current measured IQ is not listing level (for mental retardation) but can be shown to have dropped at least 15 points since before their accident or illness (this would be their premorbid IQ score).

The problem with premorbid IQ scores, however, is that claimants/patients who have suffered a drop in IQ due to illness or injury may not have prior (a.k.a. premorbid) IQ scores on record. That, being the case, how can one demonstrate that a 15 point drop has occurred?. In reality, you can't.

In an later post, I'll discuss more regarding the conversation I alluded to. However, I will point out before closing this post that low lifelong IQ (mental retardation or borderline intellectual functioning) and lowered IQ as a result of an injury or disease process can potentially result in a awarding of disability benefits.

In the first example (mental retardation and borderline intellectual functioning), the issue would likely be whether or not the claimant has the ability to engage in SRRT's. What are these? The acronym stands for simple, routine, repetitive tasks.

Basically, an individual who files for disability and is unable to engage in such tasks will be judged to be disabled.

Regarding the second example (lowered IQ as a result of an injury or disease process), the focus of the adjudicator, or decision maker, will be whether or not the claimant will retain the ability to perform the type of work they have done in the past.

If the judgement is made that the claimant cannot return to one of the relevant jobs they have performed in the last 15 years (the relevant period), then the next determination will be whether or not the claimant will be able to perform some form of other work. And this determination will be based on the claimant's age, education, work skills, and physical or mental limitations.

Impaired intellectual functioning, of course, could potentially serve as a major factor in this determination, especially for older individuals (older claimants are considered to have fewer vocational options in the national economy and, for this reason, they often find it easier to win disability benefits than younger individuals).

Return to the homepage for the Social Security Disability SSI Blog

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