Can You Get Disability Benefits if Your Child Has ADHD or ADD?

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, he or she could qualify for SSI disability benefits if it causes severe limitations.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or attention deficit disorder (ADD), is sometimes diagnosed in children who exhibit impulsiveness, inattention, or hyperactivity to a degree that isn't appropriate for their age. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, or ADD, he or she can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits if the severity of the child’s ADHD meets the Social Security Administration’s childhood impairment listing for neurodevelopmental disorders (listing 112.11). This is not an easy thing to do; most children with ADHD are denied SSI benefits. Only those with the most severe problems are approved.

Requirements for ADHD to Qualify Under the Neurodevelopmental Listing

In 2017, Social Security changed listing 112.11 from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to Neurodevelopmental Disorders, to encompass more medical conditions. It also changed the requirements in the listing significantly. The new listing requires that your child's condition is characterized by one of the following:

  • hyperactive and impulsive behavior (such as difficulty remaining seated, difficulty waiting, appearing restless, talking excessively, or behaving as if being “driven by a motor")
  • frequent distractibility (with difficulty sustaining attention and difficulty organizing tasks)
  • recurrent motor movement or vocalization, or
  • significant difficulties learning and using academic skills.

You also need to show that your child's ADHD or ADD causes them to have severe limitations in certain areas of functioning. Your child must have either an extreme limitation in one of the following areas or a “marked” (severe) limitation in two of the following areas:

  • concentrating on tasks (ignoring or avoiding distractions, completing tasks in a timely manner, working close to others without distracting them, working at an appropriate and consistent pace)
  • interacting with others (cooperating with others, maintaining friendships, handling conflicts with others)
  • adapting or managing oneself (controlling one’s behavior, being aware of risks, setting goals, adapting to changes)
  • learning, understanding and remembering information (learning new things, following oral instructions, using reason and judgment to make decisions).

How to Document Your Child’s ADHD Impairments

Make sure to include all of the medical evidence and psychological test results you have that demonstrate your child's abnormality. Standardized tests are generally preferred to other evidence, but standardized tests are not always available for every set of symptoms or for every age. (But make sure that the person who administers any standardized test is properly qualified and licensed to do so.)

Be sure to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers for every doctor, psychologist, therapist or clinic that has seen the child for ADHD-related reasons, as well as any medication information. School records and teachers' observations can be a good source of evidence, and can show the consistency or progression of impairments over time.

You can also document your own observations and the observations of anyone else who knows your child and has observed his or her difficulties (for example, teachers, coaches). Your own observations will likely involve the child’s functional abilities in daily living and social situations. The medical documentation you submit should reflect and corroborate your own observations (as well as that of relatives, teachers, and so on).

Applying for SSI Disability Benefits for Your Child with ADHD

You can call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or contact your local SSA office to submit an application. Your claim for benefits, including all of the information and records you provide, will be evaluated by a claims examiner, who will request any further information or records it may need. (The longer the SSA has to wait for medical or school records, the longer it will take to decide your claim.) The SSA will then make a determination on your child's case.

If your claim is denied (as most initial claims for ADHD are), you have the right to an appeal. If your appeal goes to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, and you feel that your child is severely limited by his or her ADHD, you should try to bring a disability lawyer to the hearing.

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