Learning Disabilities and Social Security Disability Benefits

When living with a learning disability, you’re empowered to thrive in all aspects in life despite the challenges that can be faced daily. However, in some situations, adults who suffer from severe learning disabilities can find it difficult to maintain gainful employment to support their families. Also, if you have a child who lives with a severe learning disability, it can be hard finding and affording opportunities for them to success both in and out of the classroom.

In either situation, the financial effects can, sometimes, be overwhelming to an individual or a family. The good news is that Social Security Disability benefits can help alleviate this financial strain and provide much-needed medical coverage to help pay for treatments and other medical bills.

The Social Security Disability Programsshutterstock_181599206

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two different disability programs including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs provide a monthly payment and medical coverage to severely disabled individuals. In addition to meeting the SSA’s disability criteria to receive such benefits, one must also meet the financial requirements of each respective program.

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, an individual must have worked enough in the past to earn sufficient work credits by paying Social Security taxes. For every $1,200 earned, an individual receives one work credit and can receive a maximum of four work credits per year. If you are 62 years of age, you will need 40 work credits to qualify, 20 of which must have been earned in the last 10 years. If you are under 62 years of age, you can qualify for benefits with fewer credits. The exact number of credits needed is determined by your age.

If an individual doesn’t have enough work credits, or doesn’t have any at all, the SSI program would be ideal. As children typically lack work credits, they would more likely be eligible for SSI. The SSI program is a needs-based program and is based on financial need rather than work history. As of 2014, to qualify for SSI benefits, you must not have a household income exceeding $721 per month as an individual or $1,082 per month as a couple. Household assets must also not exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

For children, only a portion of the household income is deemed to the child, so if you are applying on behalf of a child and the household income exceeds the above-mentioned levels, the child may still be eligible for benefits. Every impaired child’s application is based on a case-by-case basis, as each situation is unique. http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/content/social-security-programs

The Social Security Blue Book

To qualify for disability benefits from the SSA, you will have to prove that you are disabled according to their criteria. That usually means proving that you have a condition that is either listed in the Blue Book and meets the SSA’s Blue Book criteria or that you have a condition that is equal to a section in the Blue Book.

The Blue Book lists all of the conditions that could potentially qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits, along with the criteria that must be met with each condition. For example, if an individual wanted to apply for Social Security Disability with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) they would have to follow the Blue Book guidelines for that condition. ADHD is only listed in the childhood section or the Blue Book under Section 112.00 – Childhood Mental Disorders. As ADHD begins in early childhood, there is no similar section for the adult listings. You could receive benefits with ADHD as an adult, if you’re able to prove that:

  • You have had ADHD since childhood, and
  • ADHD has impaired your ability to complete schoolwork and to be gainfully employed as an adult.

Specifically, the listing for ADHD is covered in the childhood segment of the Blue Book under Section 112.11 – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. According to this section of the Blue Book you must be able to prove that:

  • The child has been diagnosed with ADHD that is manifested by developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity; and
  • There is medically documented findings of marked inattention, marked impulsiveness, and marked hyperactivity; or
  • For older infants and toddlers, gross or fine motor development is at a level generally acquired by children no more than one-half the child’s chronological age, documented by an appropriate standardized test or other medical findings.

Another example would be if an adult with an intellectual disability wanted to apply for benefits. He or she would apply for benefits under Blue Book Section 12.05 – Intellectual Disability. According to this Blue Book, to qualify for benefits under this listing, you would need to be able to prove that:

  • You suffer from an intellectual disability that involves significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period; and
  • Mental incapacity is evidenced by dependence upon others for personal needs and inability to follow directions, such that the use of standardized measures of intellectual functioning is precluded; or
  • A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 59 or less; or
  • A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70 and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation of function; or
  • 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; or
    • Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
    • Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
    • Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your local Social Security office. Children candidates and their parents or guardians, however, must file their application in person.

When applying for benefits, you will want to gather enough medical evidence to prove that you meet the Blue Book’s criteria for your specific disability. This can include, but isn’t limited to, clinical histories, medical records, lab results, testing results, treatment history, and a written statement from the professionals treating the applicants.

You will be asked to fill out a number of forms during the application process. Be sure to fill out each form in its entirety and with detailed answers to help the SSA understand how your condition prevents you from working, or to prove your child has severe functional limitation. The more detail you can provide, the better the SSA will understand how the condition interferes with the applicant’s daily living activities.

You may also be required to attend a consultative exam. The purpose of this exam is to determine the extent of your disability, not to provide treatment. It’s important to attend any exams that may be scheduled by the SSA as they can have impact on the decision of your claim.

You will receive a decision regarding your claim approximately two to four months from the date of your initial application. If you are awarded benefits, you will be told which benefits you qualify for, how much you will be receiving, and when benefits will begin. If you are denied benefits, you have 60 days from the date of the denial notice to appeal the SSA’s decision. http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/content/application-process

Appealing a Denial of Benefits

If you must appeal a denial, don’t lose faith. A significant percentage of applicants are indeed denied benefits during the initial stage of the application process and go on to successfully obtain benefits through the appeal process. Regardless of how long the appeal process may take, if awarded benefits you will be awarded back pay for the duration of the appeal.

You may want to consider retaining a Social Security Disability attorney for purposes of the appeal process. A disability attorney will not cost you any up-front, out-of-pocket expense. These professionals work on a contingency basis; collecting only 25% of the back pay you are awarded by the SSA with a maximum amount of $6,000. Considering the attorney can mean the difference between a successful appeal and further denial. It’s in your best interests to weigh out the options of legal representation for purposes of your Social Security Disability application process.


Author: Lisa Giorgetti, Community Liaison, Social Security Disability Help   
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    Hi Lisa,
    I am the parent of an LD, (ADHD) young adult. At the time my son was diagnosed, it was after a failed attempt at college. We applied for social security disability and we’re denied,not unusual on first attempt. unfortunately in the South where we currently live, examiners often lack a nuanced understanding of disorders like ADHD to fully grasp it’s debilitating affect on a young person trying to develop independent living skills. before we apply again for assistance, I would like some guidance on navigating the process

    • Ezavier Price says:

      So did he get approved for ssi

    • I have a daughter that is in the eigth grade with a Ile of a third grade level reading and math and relays on paras to help her do her work what help can I get for her is she eligible for ssi

      • I have a daughter that is in the 5th grade and is reading on a 2nd grade level. I wondering the same thing

      • It is very important for you to have the child tested specifically with a neuropsychological exam which will document her capabilities. There are certain guidelines and criteria that the social security administration looks for in determining eligibility. Your child would have to fall under certain test scores to qualify.

  2. This is a really awesome list of things that can make getting social security easier! I know that it can be hard to apply for social security benefits, especially if you don’t use a lawyer to help you. There are so many forms, and you have to make sure all of them are filled out correctly. Otherwise your claim will be rejected!

  3. Robert. lorimor says:

    Ive been diagnosed with add adhd and bipolar by psychologists since age five been in residential treatment programs and prescribed psych meds ive never been able to hold a job and am currently homeless im now 38 and need help iwant to apply for ssi but am lost and unsure of ehat or where to begin please help me thsnk you

  4. i had my disability since i was little. I still have problems learning how to do certain stuff. and my check gets cut off. I see all these people out here abusing it. But it takes me two years to try and get it back on. Today i was denied again without a reason as to why. They kept telling us my case was pending for two years. I just don’t understand this government. I’m 20 now and still have trouble finding a job i can’t even count money. i can barely do anything without someone having to explain it to me. My dad has a disability he can’t read or write i just don’t understand why i was denied again without a reason as to why.

    • Nathan!! I wish I could give you a hug in real life and come live with me because of you’re story I have read your message and well I had a big heart felt for you.

    • Hi. My daughter is learning disabled, an adult. She was dropped from social security because she got 2 different jobs, even though she could not stay “on task” for very long, in other words to be able to concentrate on job for more than about 2 hours at most. She was diagnosed with learning disability in kindergarten, and was in special ed. throughout school.She thinks like a child a lot, and plays with toys. I took her to a forensic psychologist who tested her, and found she cannot work, gave soc. sec. her test results and she got it back. She has not worked since, but now they sent a form for me to fill out, asking if her doctor says if she can work. I don’t think that doctor is in business I think he retired. So she is going to go to a therapist. Her regular doctor said he cannot answer that question. Hope this will work, as she really is not able to concentrate long enough to work. Last time they had first sent her to a pshychologist they picked, he said she is not disabled, but the forensic one got it right. If they send you to a doctor of their choosing and he says you’re not disabled you may want to try a forensic psychologist. I think the government is trying to get as many people as possible off soc. sec. disability because they are wasting a lot of money. Good luck to all.

    • Man you get it I been bless to get my SSI back and 2009 and been get it since then but I need more money I’m looking to see if I can I didn’t find sSchool did not know how to do Noning and school so I stop going

    • Lynn Hutchens says:

      Hire a lawyer this time. I had to. After 3 denials I finally got it. Plus back pay.

    • hi nathan,
      I have 2 LD children that are now in their late 30″s. They have worked since leaving high school. I had places of their own for many years. And yet, they can not spell as well; as you have in your comment box.
      It seems you have something going for you Nathan. Maybe writing is your niche’ in life. We all have our special something. Have a nice day.

  5. Quinica R Covington says:

    Hello, my name is Quinica R Covington and my son has been diagnosed with a learning disability he has been having a hard time fousing in school and does not understand a class assetsment or a reading package after he’s done reading. Also i’ve even transfered him to diffrent schools because he was failing and they we’re going to retain him. So i decided to put him in a private school so that they could help him and help his grades approve i must say that it has been really hard and i will not stop fighting for my son untill we get help. I am writing this email today based on and how to apply for ssi or social security disability we really do appreciate you guys for understanding and for your appreciation Thank You 🙂

    • Mrs. Johnson says:

      Hey my son has a learning disability too. My husband and I have him in IEP at school. Its like special education but he is in regular classes and gets one on one with a teacher. This is a really good program for children with learning disabilities.

      • Your son is in IEP at his school. So do you get SSI for him did the school help you.

      • Hi I have permanent custody of my sister 4 children..7 all together in the house.. 3 of her 4 have IEP.. 2 for reading & 1 for speech.. Where, what & how do I even began? Thank you in advance

    • My daughter has the same issues with her learning disability! I actually placed her in a catholic school and they didn’t provide her with any extra help! Watch out for private and catholic schools because they are not required provide IEPs or extra help for your child. AND they have less resources to provide help for your child.

  6. Hi my name is Michelle, i have a learning disabilities. how can I get help so I can go to college one day. I have no money, i’m not working.

  7. Thank you this was easy for me to understand thank you

  8. I have a learning disorder problem I need attorney to help meI have went to the doctor to Social Security have certainly to still no help for the last 6 or 7 years now

  9. I have a 7 year old grandson which I am the legal guardian of. I have had him since he was 4. He is very socially unacceptable. He gets violent with children and adults and has numerous screaming tantrums in school. He can’t get the concept of reading or writing. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and Mood Dysregulation Disorder. He is being tested for possible Nonverbal Learning Disorder. I am on disability and my husband works but we are struggling to stay financially afloat. Would my grandson be eligible for disability benefits?

  10. tana bannister says:

    My son is diagnosed as MR, Biopolar and a brittle Diabetic. We have been desperately been trying to find him a long term home placement and the State has provided no assistance. It’s like pulling teeth to get any of the State Level officials to help. I feel sorry for all the disabled people out there that need help. These associations are out there but of little help to the people that really need them. There information posted looks promising but rarely is it. I hope everyone the best out there and hopefully North Carolina will realize before it’s too late that Disabled People have rights and deserve the assistance.

  11. Cecilia Arizmendiz says:

    My son has high functioning autism, SD HD and ADD. He is attending his first year of college. He is doing very poorly. He forgets to attend classes, attend meetings with teachers and tutoring. I feel like I must be with him at each class. I see him do his “releases” in his classes and in the hallway. He is impatient and becomes angry with me when I try to help. He has no knowledge of money. He has no filter when it comes to communication with others. I feel like a failure and I am so scared of his future. Would he be eligible for disability? He was is special education all his life so his grades were fine, would this affect the decision?

    • Barbara F. says:

      I’m in the same boat (add in undiagnosed ASD and seizure disorder) and getting so nervous since he will aging out of my medical insurance coverage soon. School was bust and he can’t hold a job for long. How have you handled it thus far since your post is from more than a year ago? Love to have some feedback.

  12. I have had a learning disability for my whole life. Since kindergarten to I gradated I was in speech class, and special needs classes, I didn’t get diagnosed with my learning disability til I was either 19 or 20. There are things that I can do perfectly and there are things that I just cant do because of my learning disability.

  13. I’m frustrated I just want to cry right now. My son has an learning disability with an IEP at his school but he’s still not learning anything. I don’t know where to start by getting him help. I’ve told the school , his Dr something is wrong with my child but everybody is with he’ll grow out of it. He’s 11yrs old and they’re talking about retaining him. I just don’t know what to do . Just had to VENT. Sorry

    • Ladynique says:

      I feel the same my daughter gets disability resources at school I teach her and it’s like the school she has learned nothing so sad

    • Lashawn, u r not alone hun. I also have an 11yr old boy w/ LD & ADHD. He was retained in 1st grade and has been promoted every year just bcus they can’t retain him again, it will affect him psychologically, that’s what they say. He has been on IEP every year and nothing seems to be helping his educational skills :-(. Most parents want the best for their kids and this situation is very sad and frustrating, can imagine how my son feels in his own confused world. I have not yet apply for SS help, but planning to do so soon. Tutoring is so expensive is ridiculous, $30 an hour, really? Most ppl can’t afford to pay that much money and trust me 1 hour,
      once a week is not going to academically help any kid. I have 3 kids at home and my 11 year old is my oldest, who is the one struggling. Is really challenging when it comes to homework as he can easily spend hours trying to think how to start a simple sentence. Love my 1st born and I can only pray to God that nobody ever bully him, suffer from depression, feels less then his siblings, etc. God bless!

      • Yep I totally get it. Have been considering applying myself but just don’t know if its worth the time.
        My Daughter is 9, Has ADHD and LD and was recently diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder. It seems like its so hard to get help for these kids I knew even before she started school that she was different so I just waited for the teachers to start calling and they did in 5K. Since then constant struggle to keep her on track and make them believe that she needed the extra help because I know it was not just the ADHD causing her to have a hard time in school. Finally I jumped through hoops in second grade and got her in to see the doctors at USC Developmental Pediatrics, which conformed what the school would not test her for, a learning Disability. Now in 4th Grade back to Developmental Pedi’s and diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. You know they want me to put her on more medicine, make her study more, parent her more, and send her to a Tutor that’s 30 bucks an hour and I make 11, now go figure that one out. But they are not doing “more” and its sad and frustrating and emotionally draining and financially draining to take off work all day for specialist appoints, once a week for therapy, once a month for medication checkups and so on. So I feel for you I total understand and on top of all that I have another child who was born with a birth defect that requires the same amount of time and doctors appointments.

    • Hello, I am a 48 yrs old. In 2014 I was diagnosed with rare Deletion 22q Syndrome. I also was diagnosed with rare Non Verbal Learning Disorder. Have your children checked for nonverbal learning disorder. It can go undiagnosed as in my case my whole life. I knew I had learning disabilities just didn’t know names. I am on SSI as of last year. I applied myself and got SSI in 3 months.

    • Kim Kimberly says:

      I totally understand what you are going through. My son is 11yrs old as well and im going through the exact same thing right now and on top of all that he has been diagnosed with ADHD

    • Hi, my son & daughter both have an iep and were recently tested over the summer for a specific learning disability. It includes certain testing with the school psychologist then you have a meeting to discuss the results & what is recommended, sld classes ese program etc. You can request/insist they do this.

  14. Carol Kent says:

    I have a 23 year old. She was diagnosed as Educable Mentally Handicapped in first grade. She has had IEP help throughout her schooling. She can only do 2 to 3 digit basic math, has reading comprehension issues, doesn’t always understand what someone is saying to her until you break it down to where she will understand. She ended up dropping out of school in 11th grade cause she had to attend 11th & 12th grade in regular classes (no more Special Ed)was frustrated and got picked on. She was told in 8th grade that she would not receive a Diploma she would graduate with Option I. Basically, for attendance. Is she eligible for SSDI or SSI? She can’t get a job without a GED nowadays.Not sure what job she could even do. Any suggestions?

  15. Markeita Norwood says:

    Hello, my name is Markeita and my son is 8 will be 9 August 17th and he will be going to the second grade because of his learning disability ,He has been in IEP classes and speech pathology classes 30mins a day for 2years now and it seems to not help at all ,It us really starting to take a tole on me and him because he feel like he can’t comprehend something’s his friends are saying n reading n he gets embrassed and as a parent it makes me cry

  16. Lisa Jenkins says:

    I have a 23 year old who has always had a learning disability. She does work but has been written up several times because she does not understand always what she is supposed to do. She had several IEP’s during school but now it seems she needs help as an adult. Would she qualify for disability benefits and where do I start??

  17. My son is 22 how’ll. He was getting ssi age 14 to 18. Nothing has changed. He can’t read very
    He can’t spell he can’t read or wright very well he just learned to wright his full name at 18.. He would’ve brake his hands so hadn’t didn’t have to do work he didn’t understand. People madefun of help he got in trouble at school. He can’t pass a ged. He can’t hold a job he still libeh mom. I feel for him. He has strugled sense kindergarden. He has trouble in a let’s of e He raareas. He’s told me he wants to die. He’s on meds but that’s not .

  18. My daughter is 16 and struggling in school she has a learning disability and dislexia and wants to quit school because she is not learning anything… she gets very frustrated and is always sressed if she quits will she lose her benefits?

  19. Maria Solis says:

    Hi my names Maria I’ve applied for disability many yrs ago I was denied two or three times…I’ve got a learning disorder diabetes high blood pressure arthritis spine knees and my hands I was got an atty and was still denied the atty didn’t want to represent me for an appel i was denied i want to say it was in june…I appealed my self cause couldn’t find an attny…they gave me 25 day’s to show more prove I think that’s what the letter says….when I went to my hearing clearly I heard the third party there tell the judge I have nothing for me cause one of my Dr’s stated that I can wrk an hr and get half hr brake then another hr and get half hr brake through the whole day….t g e the judge said in her statement that I drove about an hr n a half to my hearing and I didn’t my hearing was about 5 minutes away from where I stay….I’d you can help me get my ssi plz thank you..

  20. My son is in IEP and is hard for him to lean. Can the school help us get SSI ? I was trying to send him to special school but they want 2,900 a month for 10 month

  21. Hi i have a 10 year old son and the school has diagnose him with a severe specific learning disability and his had an iep since 1st grade he cant read and he cant write can he be approved for ssi

  22. Angelina Medina says:

    I dont if i should appy for ssi for my 8 yr old she in special ed im just scare to appy for her

  23. Catrina OQuinn says:

    Hi, I have a 21 year old daughter who has a learning disability.She also has a cyst on her brain along with bad eye sight. Her mentality is at about a 17 year olds. She does work a few hours at a daycare which she is excellent at. She works there because the owner of the daycare took care of my daughter while I worked.To meet my daughter you would not know right off she has a learning disability.it becomes more obvious as you talk to her. She does not understand thing’s real well which makes her feel bad about herself. Things have to be explained to her numerous times. Despite her best efforts she can barely count money and she tries hard and she can not tell time. She has severe headaches which cause her to be bed ridden for days. She may benefit from having the fyst drained but do not have the funds to do it we feel like we are failing her and do not know what to do. She wants to live like other kids her age. Her IEP is no longer any good. She will never be able to take care of herself and I am not sure how we will be able to do it either. Is there any helpful out there for her or us. I want her to live a happy life..She thinks she is a burden despite us telling her she is our daughter and we love her and will do whaT ever we have to to take care of her. Can someone please point me in the right direction. Her dr stated thAt she should qulify for some help.But what kind and how. He also stated we may want to look into becoming her guardians until she is 25 and hopefully by then she will be mature enough to make her own decisions

  24. Michael Rhodes says:

    I have a sever leaning disable ity I had it all my life I’m 52years old . My mom was to profile to have me check out as a child . School had a hard time with me and then they had me check for mintal and learning . All throughout my school s I was in special EAD classes even in high school students would pick on me for not getting the grade
    I work for my dad folding news papers in the morning before school from jr high through high school made a little money. Found a girl friend that didn’t care if I was slow got married had to kids . I tried to work and I didn’t now how to do a lot of work it was a new job every three to six months . She decided to leave me after I could not bring home the bacon for our kids . That’s was like killing me still today it hurts never married again . Still hide in mom’s house because I have no social skills tried it I can’t . Still today I have learning and remember problem.
    With all that dear I’ve been deni SSI and still waiting after I’ve gotten a lawyer March is my hearing . I hope it good! Ian tired with this ! Just want to fall of in a hole.


  1. […] is possible to apply for SSI for any disability or conditions just like SSI learning disability which keep you from having the ability to get the job […]

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