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School Records and Supplemental Security Income Disability Benefits

By R. M. Bottger

If you apply for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits for your school-age child, the Social Security Administration will want copies of your child’s school records. When you apply for disability benefits, you will sign a release form for SSA to send to your child’s school to obtain copies of your child’s records. SSA will want all of your child’s records including achievement tests, intelligence testing, records of speech therapy, grades, attendance records, special education records, and any other records that the school has on your child.

SSA will also send the school a form for your child’s teacher to complete and return to SSA. Typically, the first question will ask the teacher to describe a typical school day for your child. The form will subsequently ask about any problems your child is having with learning, attention span, social problems, behavioral problems, speech problems, and any other physical or mental problems that your child is having. Teachers, especially special education teachers, have tons of paperwork to complete. As a result, sometimes teachers do not return theses forms to SSA in a timely manner. This can delay the decision on your child’s case. If your child’s teacher does not return this form in a timely manner, please try to find a polite way to let your child’s teacher know that this is very important and that you would appreciate the teacher completing the form as soon as possible.

            If your child has a learning problem, SSA may send your child for additional testing at SSA’s expense even if your child’s school records contain intelligence testing. There are several possible reasons SSA might want additional testing. For example, SSA wants the testing to be fairly current. Generally, for children under the age of seven years, SSA will want testing that was performed in the last year. For children seven years and older, SSA will generally want records performed in the last two years. If the intelligence testing in your child’s school records is older than that, SSA will want new testing. SSA wants intelligence testing performed using one of the following tests: WAIS-III (for people age sixteen years and up), WISC-III (for children under age sixteen), the Stanford-Binet (for all ages), and the Leiter (for those who are hearing impaired or cannot speak English). SSA uses other tests for children too young to be in school. If your child’s school performed intelligence testing using a different test, SSA will want new testing. SSA requires testing performed by a psychologist. Psychologists include any one with one of the following titles:

·        “school psychologist”

·        “Ph.D., psychologist”

·        “Psy.D., psychologist”

·        “Ed.D., psychologist.”

            In Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia, or Puerto Rico, psychologists also include persons with the following titles :

·        "M.A., psychologist"

·        "M.Psy., psychologist"

·        "M.Ed., psychol­ogist" 

All of these persons must be licensed to practice in whatever state they practice in.  If your child’s school records include testing performed by a school psychometrist or other person, SSA will want new testing. If there is evidence that your child did not cooperate fully with the school testing, SSA will want a new test.

            Conditions that are severe enough to qualify for disability benefits will impact your child’s functioning at school in some way. Maybe your child has to use a wheelchair to get around. Maybe your child has to be in special classes for the learning disabled or severely emotionally disturbed. Maybe your child’s condition causes frequent absenteeism. Maybe your child has to take medication at school. In one way or another, disabling conditions will impact your child’s function at school. If your child’s school is unaware of your child’s condition, then your child’s condition is not likely to be severe enough for your child to qualify for disability benefits.  Also, just because your child is in special education classes in school does not necessarily mean that SSA will decide that your child is disabled.

            School records can be very helpful to SSA. When I worked as a disability determination specialist, I often would get cases in which there were only physical conditions alleged, but then I would get the school records and find out the child also had a learning or behavioral problem. Sometimes this was because the parent was embarrassed about the child’s mental problem or because the parent was not aware that SSA awards benefits for mental as well as physical problems. Sometimes, as you might imagine, school records would demonstrate that the child’s condition was not as bad as the parent said it was. Once, I got a disability case on an elementary aged child whose mother said the girl was totally blind. When I received the girl’s school records, I found that the teacher was not aware the child had any physical or mental problems whatsoever. That disability case was denied. I had another case in which a high school girl’s father said that she was severely depressed. The form that her teacher filled out showed that she was a straight A student, she was active in many clubs, she had lots of friends, and that she was very cheerful. That case was also denied. Of course, it is best to be totally honest with SSA about your child’s condition, because SSA does look closely at children’s school and medical records.

 

          

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

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