Qualifying for disability with Attention Deficit, ADHD
Can you get disability for ADHD?
Yes, you can qualify to receive either Social Security Disability or SSI benefits based on ADHD. If you are an adult, this may be in the form of a medical vocational allowance which we will discuss further down the page. First, we will discuss how to get disability for attention deficit for a child.
How to get disability for ADHD if you are a child
Although Social Security does not have an impairment listing for adults with ADHD, they do have a specific impairment listing dedicated to childhood 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 be medical documentation of the following three criteria:
1. Marked inattention;
2. Marked hyperactivity;
3. Marked impulsiveness.
The word "marked" in Social Security terminology means "significant and clearly evident".
The criteria of the child ADHD listing is drawn from listing 112.02, Organic brain disorders. This is because ADHD is considered a developmental disorder rather than a psychiatric disorder. And the functional criteria contained in that 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?).
What Social Security will review to make the decision
If you are filing a disability claim for a child with ADHD, Social Security will want to review the child's medical records, but also the school records, including their grades and their IEPs. Additionally, the disability examiner working on the claim will often send a teacher questionaire to one or more of the child's teachers. These questionaires can be very helpful in documenting the functional limitations the child has a result of their attention deficit disorder.
How to get disability for ADHD if you are an adult
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 some sources suggest that an adult could possibly meet or equal the childhood listing (discussed above) if they have a history of treatment for ADHD as a child, it is more likely that adults who get approved through a listing will satisfy the criteria of another mental impairment listing whose symptoms are similar to ADHD.
That said, the majority of adults who are approved will be awarded after an evaluation of their medical and work history. 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 with social settings required for work, then you may qualify for disability on the basis of a medical vocational allowance.
The first litmus test when an adult files, however, regards work activity.
To get disability, your condition must significantly limit your ability to work
To get disability as an adult, your condition must be severe. How severe? Severe enough to prevent you from working at a substantial and gainful earnings level for at least 12 months. "Substantial and gainful" simply means that you cannot work and earn more than a certain amount in order to be eligible. To see the SGA earnings limit: How much can you work and earn while on disability?
How Social Security will review your case
As with most adult disability claims, Social Security will review both your medical records and your work history. The examiner will look at your medical evidence to determine what your physical or mental functional limitations are. What you are still able to do, despite your condition, is called your residual functional capacity or RFC. Your RFC is compared to what your past jobs required of you.
If your limitations are too great, Social Security will determine that you cannot go back to your past work. However, this does not mean you are approved. The next step in the medical vocational approval process is to decide if you have the ability to do some type of other work. If you can't, then you will qualify for disability.
Note that Social Security considers your age, education, skill transferability, past work history, and residual functional capacity when making a medical vocational disability determination.
How do you improve the chances of winning disability for ADHD?
Your chances of being approved are greatly increased if you were treated for ADHD as a child (toddler to age 18). If you were not treated as a child, but are being treated now for the disorder, there is still a chance you may 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 just being diagnosed with a condition when they make a disability determination.
Or, it may be possible to 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).
If you'd like to learn more about ADHD, please read the sections below.
Types of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
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.).
The symptoms of ADHD
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 have mood swings from normal to excitement or depression that can occur reactively or spontaneously.
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