The Social Security Administration specifically lists Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as an impairment condition for children but it is not listed under the adult listing of impairments in the SSA Blue Book. This does not mean that adults cannot receive SSDI benefits with a diagnosis of ADHD, but it is probably going to be difficult.
What is Disability?
In order to qualify for benefits under SSDI, an adult must be considered disabled. The SSA describes disabled as, “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In addition, for an adult to qualify, if the disability began after the age of 22, he or she must have previously worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. This definition of disability is very restrictive and allows for only those with severe limitations to qualify for SSDI.
The SSA looks at many different factors when deciding if someone is eligible to receive disability payments. Generally you will need to provide documentation including:
- Work history which can include work evaluations and statements from supervisors and any support or accommodations you received while working
- What other type of work you may be able to perform
- Medical documentation explaining the severity of the ADHD and the results of any psychological testing and stating how your activities of daily living, social functioning, concentration and persistence are impacted (you do not need to gather medical evidence, the SSA will request this information directly from your doctors.)
- How medication and treatment impacts your symptoms
In addition, you may be asked to attend a meeting with SSA evaluators. They may ask you to provide a personal description of how your ADHD interferes with your ability to work. You can bring family members or qualified professionals with you to this meeting and they will be given a chance to speak with the evaluator to further explain your situation.
Level of Symptoms
Because the SSA does not specifically list ADHD as a recognized impairment, we must use the “required level of severity” listed for children:
- Marked inattention and
- Marked impulsiveness and
- Marked hyperactivity
It is important to note that children must show “marked” impairment in all three major symptoms. Marked is “more than moderate but less than extreme.” When there is marked impairment, symptoms “seriously interfere with your ability to function independently, appropriately, effectively and on a sustained basis.”
Continuing Disability Review
Are found eligible you will begin to receive disability payments. However, from time to time reviews can be completed to make sure you are still disabled. There is no set time for all reviews to occur and can happen anytime between 3 and 7 years after you are found to be eligible. You will receive notice of when your review will occur. You will need to complete an updated medical form and include all medical offices you have received treatment and all evaluations you have received since your eligibility. The SSA will request your medical records and may request an independent evaluation. You will also need to attend a meeting with the SSA evaluator. If your condition has not improved you will continue to receive benefits.
"Disability Evaluation Under Social Security (Blue Book), 2008, September, U.S. Social Security Administration
“Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI),” Date Unknown, National Resource Center on AD/HD
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.