How Special Education and Difficulty in School Relate to Getting Disability

Social Security wants to see special education and school records to see whether your mental impairment has lasted since childhood and how much education you've had.

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If you file for disability (either Social Security disability, SSI disability, or both), you'll want to report the following when you submit the disability report with your claim. 

  • Any trouble or difficulty you may have had in school. This can be general difficulty with school work, or even difficulty in certain subjects.
  • Failed grades.
  • Any special classes, remedial instruction, or special education instruction you may have received.
  • The last grade you completed in school.

Are school records only relevant for child claimants (applicants)? Not, it is not at all rare for a disability attorney to obtain records that are decades old (which can often be a challenge since such records are archived, and not all school systems are proficient at storing records). The attorney can use these school records to win disability benefits for an adult claimant.

Evidence for Mental Impairment Claims

One's academic history can be used to substantiate a claim that is based on a mental impairment, such as:

School records can even help a case in which the chief impairments are psychological:

Records showing that your cognitive or psychological problems have been lifelong can help support your diagnosis. For some conditions, such as mental retardation (an IQ of 70 or below, according to Social Security), you have to be able to prove that you had the impairment before age 22. (Read about a case where school records could help a claimant many years later.)

On the other hand, for some disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury or organic brain dysfunction, having old school records and IQ tests are required to show that your IQ has decreased as a result of your injury or illness.

Education Counts

Secondly, among the various types of factors that the Social Security Administration takes into consideration when determining whether someone is eligible for disability is one's level of education. In some cases, a low level of education can actually mean that the applicant should be granted benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. This is true whether you're filing a claim for physical disability or mental/emotional disability. Having a low level of education combined with being over 50 can mean that you won't be expected to learn a new, less demanding job if you can't do your prior job.

Learn more about medical-vocational allowances.

Updated by: , J.D.

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