Some Social Security disability claims can depend heavily on IQ tests. This is especially true for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims for children with learning disabilities or other cognitive issues.
What’s an IQ test?
An IQ test is any number of tests that attempt to measure how far above or below an individual’s mental ability is as compared to the rest of the population. The mean or average score is 100. A score above 100 tends to show greater than average mental ability. A score below 100 tends to show lower than average mental ability.
IQ Tests are Not Determinative of Ability or Outcomes
Generally, IQ tests on their own are not indicative of ability, success, future success, or an ability to engage in substantial gainful employment. In fact, Social Security uses only IQ scores to satisfy one part of the criteria needed to find a person has an intellectual disorder that meets or medically equals listing under its rules for disability. Nevertheless, a low IQ score can be a powerful factor in awarding disability.
How Social Security uses IQ tests
Social Security uses IQ tests to help evaluate applicants who may qualify for disability due to an intellectual disorder. What they look for is a score “two standard deviations” below the average score. In other words, if the applicant has an IQ score of 70 or lower then they have satisfied part of the test for qualifying due to an intellectual disorder.
Even if you don’t have an IQ score of 70 or below, you might still meet the cutoff if your score is between 71 and 75 and your score on the verbal portion of the test is 70 or below.
Not all tests are equal.
There are several types of IQ tests, but not all of them are equal in the eyes of Social Security. The type of test, who administers the test, and even where the test is administered can affect the validity of an IQ score. Not surprisingly, click-bait onilne IQ tests will not suffice.
Some tests like non-verbal tests can only be used in certain situations. For example, where the person being tested does not speak English or has significant trouble using any language a non-verbal test like the “Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Second Edition” (the CTONI-2) might be sufficient.
Generally, the claimant must take a “full-scale” IQ test. The test must be individually administered, and done in a clinical setting.
ALJ Not Allowed to Ignore an IQ score below 70.
Neither a Social Security claims handler nor an administrative law judge may disregard a low IQ score. Indeed, they must presume the score is accurate unless a qualified specialist or expert concludes that the IQ test is not an accurate reflection of the persons’ mental abilities. If Social Security is ignoring a low IQ score and denying benefits, you should talk to a lawyer about an appeal.
Where to get help:
- Check out the Alabama State Department of Education’s FAQ’s regarding Special Education Services for more information about what’s available to students with disabilities;
- Use Disability Alabama’s disability calculator for an estimate of your benefit. While you do not need any special information to complete the calculation you may want to take a moment to think about your average yearly income and current household income before using the disability calculator; and
- Contact Disability Alabama for help with a Social Security disability application or denial .