Can an intelligence quotient (IQ) test be used to prove a disability case?

Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews intelligence quotient (IQ) test results to decide whether to provide payments to people who are disabled by intellectual disability or as a result of traumatic brain injury. In most cases, any person who has an IQ under 70 and has difficulty performing daily living activities, interacting socially, or completing work tasks accurately may be approved for benefits. In cases of intellectual disability providing proof of disability is often easier than getting benefits after traumatic brain injury.

The Trouble with IQ Tests After Traumatic Brain Injury

Some people are not born with a mental disability but suffer a head injury that affects their ability to earn a living. For instance, a person is working at Walmart in Omaha when he slips on a wet sidewalk and hits his head on the concrete. He recovers from the medical effects of injury, but still suffers from mental difficulties as a result of the accident. Can he get Social Security payments? Social Security compares his current IQ with his IQ scores before the accident (known as a premorbid) and if his current IQ score is not at least 15 points lower than his premorbid IQ, the individual may be denied disability benefits. 

Another problem with comparing pre- and post-injury IQ scores is that many victims have not taken an IQ test prior to their accident. This makes it difficult to know how much, if any, the patient’s IQ has changed as a result of the injury. Also, if the victim never had any mental function or aptitude tests prior to the injury, they will have no baseline to compare with their current skill level.

If someone you know needs assistance applying for disability benefits, we can help. Send us an email at [email protected], or click the link on this page to order our free informational guide, Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Social Security Disability Claim.