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Does a Learning Disability Qualify Someone for Social Security Benefits?

 Posted on November 03, 2015 in Need to Apply for Social Security Disability

learning disability, autism, Chicago Social Security Disability lawyerLearning disabilities often impair a person to such a degree they may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. While disorders such as autism do not automatically entitle an applicant to disability benefits, Social Security officials must consider how such conditions limit a person's ability to function in a competitive workplace. This requires careful consideration of medical expert testimony regarding a particular applicant's challenges.

Social Security Failed to Fully Consider Applicant's Limitations

In a recent Illinois case, a federal magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the disability application of a 24-year-old man with a long history of learning difficulties. The applicant was first diagnosed with hearing and speech problems at the age of four, qualifying him for Supplemental Security Income benefits. These benefits automatically expired when the applicant reached age 18, requiring him to reapply for adult Social Security Disability Insurance.

As a child, the applicant was diagnosed with autism. In February 2011, two psychologists assessed the applicant's condition. The first psychologist noted the applicant had “moderate” difficulties with social functioning, as well as “maintaining concentration, persistence or pace.” This would limit the applicant to performing “simple, routine, repetitive” tasks with a minimal amount of social interaction.

The second psychologist determined the applicant had “reading, mathematics, and written expression disorders.” This limited his ability to “understand and remember detailed verbal instructions.” She concluded the applicant could “make simple work-related decisions,” but any employment he held would have to be heavily restricted in order to accommodate his learning disabilities.

Despite this, a Social Security administrative law judge held the applicant was not legally disabled. The ALJ determined the applicant could perform certain types of unskilled labor, such as a janitor or laundry worker, and, notwithstanding the psychologists' reports, any restrictions on his employment would be minimal.

On appeal, the federal magistrate found the ALJ failed to adequately explain his decision. Of particular concern, the magistrate said the ALJ did not “articulate the weight” he gave to the psychologists' opinions. Furthermore, he accepted some of the experts' opinions while disregarding others, again without sufficient explanation. For example, the second psychologist said the applicant “should not be placed under a time demand” in any job he might have, and would require constant instruction just to perform simple tasks. The magistrate said the ALJ excluded this finding altogether, which “could be significant,” given few employers would hire or retain an employee under such circumstances. The magistrate said the ALJ needed to consider all of the psychologists' opinions, not just those which supported his decision to deny the applicant's disability claim.

Need Help With a Disability Claim?

Many people affected with learning disorders are capable of working full-time jobs without major difficulty. But in some case, a learning disability may be severe enough to warrant disability status. If you have a loved one who suffers from such severe impairments, it is important you seek legal advice from a qualified Chicago Social Security Disability attorney who understands the long and complex process of applying for disability benefits. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you would like to speak with someone right away.



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