Overview of Disability
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Mental Disability Benefits
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Social Security List of Conditions
What Social Security considers disabling
Medical Evidence and Disability
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SSD SSI Definitions
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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Social Security Disability SSI and ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
About the disorder
The majority of people think that ADHD is just a childhood psychiatric disorder that affected individuals grow out of. Unfortunately, this is not true. Most statistical evidence suggests at least sixty percent of the people diagnosed with ADHD as children continue to have ADHD as adults. While this fact is generally accepted in the medical community, Social Security does not have a specific mental impairment listing to address adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
ADHD disorder can be a very debilitating disorder for both adults and children. The symptomology of ADHD is sometimes similar to those of other conditions such as borderline personality disorder, antisocial disorder, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.
Children and adults with ADHD can suffer from persistent motor hyperactivity making them feel restless and unable to relax even while performing an activity.
They may be unable to maintain attention and concentration; be short tempered (short outbursts, constant irritability, or easily provoked); be extremely impulsive (never consider the consequences of their actions); be prone to emotional overreaction (ordinary stress causes anger, depression, anxiety, etc.); or mood swings from normal to excitement or depression that can occur reactively or spontaneously.
While ADHD is a stand-alone diagnosis, many individuals with ADHD have other mental conditions in conjunction with their ADHD disorder. There are three types of attention deficit disorder: Combined, predominately inattentive, and predominately hyper-impulsive. People who are affected by the combined disorder are much more likely to suffer from other mental conditions (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.).
How the social security administration evaluates attention deficit cases
Although Social Security has not created an impairment listing to specifically address the severity criteria for adults with ADHD, they do, however, have a specific impairment listing dedicated to childhood ADHD.
While some sources suggest that an adult could possibly meet or equal the childhood listing if they have a history of treatment for ADHD as a child, it is more likely adults with ADHD may meet or equal the severity criteria listed in other mental impairment listings, whose symptoms are similar to ADHD.
The children’s ADHD listing, 112.11, requires that a child’s attention deficit disorder be characterized by developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. To meet the criteria of the listing, there must also be medical documentation of the following three criteria: marked inattention, marked hyperactivity, and marked impulsiveness ("marked" in Social Security disability means significant, clearly evident).
Children must meet or equal the functional criteria outlined in listing 112.02 (organic brain disorders) to meet or equal the children’s ADHD listing.
This listing is a good choice since ADHD is considered a developmental disorder rather than a psychiatric disorder. And the functional criteria listed in the listing addresses limitations in age appropriate areas of cognitive functioning, social functioning, maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and communication skills for toddlers through age 18.
Functional abilities for children are based upon testing, school performance, and the observations of medical professionals; whereas for adults, functional ability can be evaluated through work history details (such as can they maintain a job, can they get along with coworkers or supervisors, and can they deal with customers?).
If an adult is not working, their interpersonal relationships with family or friends, or lack thereof, may suggest functional limitations that would interfere with their ability to work. As mentioned above, being approved for Social Security as an adult is a little more complicated due to the lack of specific listing criteria for adults with ADHD.
If you are applying for disability on the basis of ADHD as an adult, you should have medical evidence to support your diagnosis and limitations. Your ADHD has to have prevented you from working at substantial gainful activity (to see the SGA earnings limit: how much can you work and earn while on disability ) for twelve months, or there must exist the expectation that you will be out of work for twelve continuous months or more as a result of your condition.
Social Security disability depends upon two things: having a medically determinable disabling condition or impairment and your to perform SGA in spite of that impairment. If your ADHD has prevented your from sustaining substantial work activity, there is a chance that you could be approved for disability.
Your chances of being approved are greatly improved if you were treated for ADHD as a child (toddler-18). If you were not treated as a child but are being treated now for the disorder, there is still a chance that you may still be approved. It is important to have treatment notes that address how ADHD has limited your functional capacity.
Remember, Social Security disability focuses on functional capacity rather than specific physical or mental impairments when they make a disability determination. If your ADHD has prevented you from being able to stay on task, remember things, complete assignments, get along with co workers or employers, or caused significant problems dealing in social settings required for work, then you may qualify for disability on the basis of a medical vocational allowance.
Or perhaps you might meet the severity criteria of another listing such as affective disorder (depression, bipolar) or organic brain disorders (part of the childhood ADHD listing refers to this listing for functional criteria).
Social Security considers your age, education, skill transferability, past work history, and residual functional capacity (what you are currently able to do in spite of the limitations of your disabling condition) when making a medical vocational disability determination.
If the disability examiner finds that you are unable to go back to any of your past work and that you are not able to transition to any other kind of work when your residual functional capacity is considered, you might be approved for disability benefits.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Related Body System Impairments:
Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits IF You Have A Mental Condition But Do Not Take Medication?
Will Your Claim for Disability be Handled Differently if it is Based on a Physical or Mental Problem?
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
The Social Security Disability and SSI Process for Mental Claims based on Mental Disorders
When you file for disability and have both Mental and Physical Conditions
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Are SSI and Social Security Disability Requirements Tougher For Mental Claims?
Social Security Disability, SSI, Mental Disorders, and Functional Limitations
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria