33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 1130, Chicago, IL 60602

5 Convenient Locations

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Youtube


call us312-999-0999fax312-999-8999

Does a Low IQ Score Qualify a Person for Disability Benefits?

 Posted on September 13, 2019 in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability attorneySocial Security disability insurance covers both physical and mental disorders that prevent a person from working. With respect to mental or “intellectual” disorders, an IQ test is often used to help Social Security determine whether or not someone is disabled. But while a low IQ score can provide useful evidence in supporting a disability claim, it is not by itself definitive proof of such a disability.

7th Circuit: Social Security Did Not Properly Consider Disability Applicant's Limited Math Abilities

Put another way, even if a disability applicant has a low IQ score, Social Security will still deny benefits if it believes the applicant can still perform “simple, repetitive work.” More to the point, Social Security must show there is such work that the applicant could actually perform given their intellectual limitations.

In a recent decision, Williams v. Saul, a federal appeals court held Social Security failed to make such a showing. The plaintiff in this case is a 25-year-old man with an IQ of 64. At a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), a medical expert testified the plaintiff's “math skills were at a second-grade level.” He gave incorrect answers to basic addition and multiplication problems, and could not perform division at all.

Separately, the ALJ asked a vocational expert (VE) what type of jobs someone could perform if they were limited to “simple, routine, repetitive … one to two-step tasks.” The VE replied such a person could work as a “hand packer, assembler, or a sorter,” which were all “bench jobs” that did not require as high degree a level of mental functioning as assembly-line work.

Based on this testimony, the ALJ ultimately found the plaintiff did not qualify for disability benefits. On appeal to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiff argued there were basic flaws in the ALJ's questioning of the VE that justified a new hearing. The Seventh Circuit agreed.

The appeals court explained that the VE's testimony regarding the qualifications for a “hand packer, assembler, or a sorter” conflicted with the official definition of those jobs contained in the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT states the three jobs described by the VE all require “level-one math proficiency.” Among other things, this means the applicant must have the ability to “add and subtract two digit numbers” and “multiple and divide 10's and 100's by 2, 3, 4, [&] 5.”

Yet at the hearing, the medical expert said the plaintiff's “math skills were at a second-grade level,” meaning he could not perform many basic arithmetical operations. And in fact, the applicant was previously rejected for a pipe cutting job “because he could not pass the required math test.” This suggested to the Court that the plaintiff “also may struggle to perform jobs that the Dictionary designates as requiring level-one math skills.”

Do Not Represent Yourself – Speak with a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

The Seventh Circuit also “encouraged” the plaintiff to obtain counsel for his new hearing. The plaintiff actually waived his right to an attorney during the first hearing. This is never a good idea.

Indeed, if you or a family member find yourself in a similar situation, you should not hesitate to contact a qualified Chicago Social Security disability attorney. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation.

Share this post:

You are not alone. Call now for a FREE consultation 312-999-0999

Unable to travel to my office? No problem! No office visit required.

dupage county bar association Chicago abr association nosscr Super Lawyer
Back to Top