Can one collect disability for ADHD? I am frequently asked this question by many concerned parents of children with ADHD and adult ADHD sufferers.
The short answer is yes, but it is often not easy. It depends on the state, as some states have more available resources than others, or some states simply make mental health care more of a priority.
Is ADHD A Disability?
Disability benefits are determined by Social Security and is included on their list of eligible impairments. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is considered a disability as long as two different criteria (A and B) are met.
Criteria A includes medically documented findings of marked inattention, marked impulsiveness, and marked hyperactivity, which are the three prominent behavioral symptoms of ADHD.
Disability criteria B states that children under 18 must have 2 of these 3 circumstances resulting from ADHD: marked impairment in age-appropriate cognitive/communication function, marked impairment in age-appropriate social functioning, and/or marked impairment in age-appropriate personal functioning.
Further, medical documentation such as reports from doctors, mental health professionals, documentation from teachers, child study teams, standardized tests, are required to support the case for disability.
Is It Easy To Get Approved?
It's tricky. A diagnosis of ADHD alone is not sufficient to receive disability benefits. One must prove "marked impairment" and "measurable functional deficits" in the context of school (for children) or work (for adults) performance.
Because many aspects of ADHD tend to be based on subjective observations, the bar is often set quite high in proving that ADHD causes "marked impairment" in an individual. Also, budget cuts with respect to mental health services can affect approval.
Often, one's application is more easily approved by providing evidence of severely inhibited life functioning, typically as evidenced by poor academic records or inability to successfully maintain adult employment.
In addition, in my experience, children under 3 have a limited chance of approval based on the ADHD disability listing because it is difficult to diagnose ADHD in toddlers, who are by nature very active.
Keep in mind, however, that children may still be eligible for extra assistance and resources from their school districts. However, school districts can differ significantly regarding the types of available services offered. Usually, a school's child-study team provides assessments and recommendations.
I have some patients that were initially refused disability for ADHD, but hired a specialized disability attorney to help make their case. In these cases, the initial disability determination refusal was overturned.
Therefore, if you are initially refused disability for ADHD, you can often submit a request for reconsideration along with new evidence for your case within 60 days of your initial denial.
If your reconsideration is denied, you can request a disability hearing in front of a judge. If your hearing in front of a judge is unsuccessful, you can then appear in front of an Appeals Council, whose job is to review the judge's decision.