How Borderline Intellectual Functioning Impacts Social Security Disability Eligibility

There are a lot of individuals who wouldn’t be approved for SSDI or SSI benefits under Social Security’s standard criteria for an intellectual disability, despite the fact that their impairments make it impossible to consistently perform basic workplace activities.

What is Borderline Intellectual Functioning?

This cognitive impairment applies to individuals when they have lower than average intelligence, typically demonstrating IQ scores in the 71 to 84 range—higher than the stand-alone intellectual disability standard of 59. The condition can result from an injury during birth, traumatic brain injury, fetal alcohol syndrome, genetics, infections, and exposure to contaminants.

Alone, borderline intellectual functioning is not enough of an impairment for an individual to qualify for disability benefits from the SSA. However, because this cognitive issue often isn’t a person’s only physical or mental limitation, it can often be an aspect of a successful claim.

Residual Functional Capacity and Borderline Intellectual Functioning

A residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment may help to demonstrate that the limitations of an individual with below average intellectual functioning make it impossible for them to maintain full-time employment.

Usually, people dealing with this condition have marked difficulties with:

  • Learning
  • Abstract thinking
  • Making decisions
  • Logic
  • Planning

These issues can present themselves in the following non-exertional limitations, or limitations not related to physical capacity:

  • Social interaction: Is the individual able to clearly communicate with others, including the general public? Do they have a history of serious problems interacting with others?
  • Ability to follow instructions: Can the individual readily understand, remember and follow instructions, or must they have each step individually broken down to perform one at a time?
  • Supervision: Can the individual work independently, or does he or she need close supervision?
  • Training: Is the person able to be trained? Can they retain training from shift to shift? Do they need to relearn a basic job function every time they work?
  • Maintaining appropriate pace: Can the individual maintain pace of the workplace, or do they take much longer than their coworkers to complete basic tasks?
  • Focus: Is the person able reasonably to concentrate on job-related tasks? Can they quickly redirect their focus toward successfully completing another duty, or does this cause a substantial amount of errors in their work?
  • Reason and judgment: Can the individual reliably make sound decisions on complicated workplace issues? Have any of the person’s decisions put themselves or someone else in danger?

Any evidence demonstrating these issues should be documented as limitations in the mental RFC evaluation. Appropriate evidence can include:

  • School records.
  • IQ scores.
  • Statements from teachers, social workers, previous supervisors; anyone who has dealt directly with the individual’s limitations.
  • Work reviews.
  • Written statements of reason for termination.

Successfully obtaining Social Security disability benefits in Texas is hard enough without a special circumstance such as borderline intellectual capacity. To learn more about what the dedicated legal team of Morgan & Weisbrod can do for you, call 800.800.6353 to schedule a free consultation today.

Additionally, request our free book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law