Social security benefits for adhd

Updated July 20, 2017

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders. It can and often does continue through adolescence and adulthood. ADHD can become so debilitating that individuals may seek financial assistance from one of two Social Security Disability programs provided by the federal government.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, DSM-IV-TR, details the guidelines for diagnosing ADHD.

In children, some symptoms may include being easily distracted, unable to focus, non-stop talking, fidgeting, impatience, and blurting out answers.

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty getting organised, jump from job-to-job or forget appointments. They may also have difficulty getting up in the morning, getting out of the house on time and staying on task.

Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two Social Security Disability programs for which individuals who have ADHD may qualify.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides monthly payments to children, under 18 years old, and adults who are blind or have other disabilities like ADHD. Individuals must meet the SSAs medical criteria and have a limited income or resources in order to qualify.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides monthly payments to adults who were disabled prior to becoming 22 years old and whose parents are receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, or died after meeting the work requirements under Social Security guidelines. (See Ref 4)

SSDI also is provided to adults who become disabled during adulthood and have paid Social Security taxes while working. SSDI benefits continue as long as the disability exists.(See Ref 4)

Disability Criteria

According to the SSA, Title XVI says that a child under age 18 is considered disabled if that child has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations, and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

The SSA provides physicians and health professionals with Disability Evaluation Under Social Security guidelines, called the Blue Book. The Blue Book and its List of Impairments help health-care providers understand how the disability programs work so that they can help their patients file disability claims.

The List of Impairments for childhood ADHD is in the Blue Book under Childhood Listings (Part B), Section 112.11 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For Adults the Blue Book provides the list of impairment under Adult Listings (Part A). However, your doctor may have to assist you because there is no clearly defined section for Adult ADHD.(See Ref 5)


Adults can submit the Adult Disability Report application online at the Social Security Disability website. They may also apply over the phone, or visit the local field office and interview with a Social Security representative.

To apply for disability for your child, you must go to your local Social Security office or apply over the phone. You cannot complete an SSI application for a child online. However, you can complete the Child Disability Report Form and view the Fact Sheet and Checklist in the Child Disability Starter Kit online.

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About the Author

A retired military veteran, successful technical writer and instructional designer, Laurie Senese has written technical documentation, Web-based training courses and human interest stories for 17 years. In 1993, while still in the Navy, Senese earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Northern Illinois University. She resides in Orlando, Fla.