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Social Security Disability Benefits for ADHD
Adults and Children

Some people believe that adults cannot suffer from ADHD; however, this is incorrect. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with
children and teens; however, the disorder can continue into adulthood. Children who suffer from ADHD have difficulty controlling their impulses and maintaining
attention and, in some cases, the child may be unable to control these behaviors. Due to the hardships families of both children and adults with ADHD can face, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits for those who qualify.

What is Social Security Disability?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are government programs designed to provide financial support to adults and children who are disabled. SSDI is based on the earning record of the individual while SSI is a need-based financial program. Adults and children must meet
certain criteria in order to be eligible to collect benefits under the SSDI or SSI programs.

What are the Financial Qualifications for SSD and SSI?
Both programs require that the adult or child meet certain financial requirements and medical requirements in order to be eligible for disability benefits. For SSDI, the applicant must have worked and
paid into the Social Security system for a specific period and now be unable to an income due to his or her ADHD.

For SSI, the applicant must have countable income that is below the allowable limit. In 2015, an applicant cannot be earning an income of more than $733 per month, and he or she cannot have an asset level higher than $2,000.  Assets include cash, stocks, life insurance, or valuables such as a second home or second car. While the financial requirements for disability benefits are fairly straightforward, the medical requirements are more complicated.

What are the Medical Requirements of Social Security Disability?
The SSA defines the definition of “disability” for children and adults separately. The definition of disability for children states the child must have a
mental or physical condition that seriously limits the child’s activities and the child has had the condition for at least one year or the condition is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

For adults, the definition of disabled is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity” (activities that could earn payment at a place of employment) due to the adult’s mental or physical condition. The condition must have lasted for at least 12 months or the condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.

The SSA uses a list of impairments to determine if the adult or child meets the definition of “disabled” to qualify for disability benefits. The list of impairments is common referred to as the Blue Book.

What is the SSA’s Blue Book?
The “Blue Book” is a list of medical conditions, physical and mental, that may qualify for disability benefits. The book is divided into categories for adults and children.  ADHD is included in the Blue Book for children; however, ADHD is not an impairment that is included in the Blue Book for Adults.

Adults with ADHD may meet or exceed the Blue Book requirements for children, especially if they have a history of ADHD treatment as a child, or the adult may meet or exceed the severity of the requirements for a similar condition that is listed in the Blue Book. A claims examiner will evaluate the functional capacity of the adult to determine if the adult is capable of working.

The adult must have medical evidence to support the ADHD diagnosis and evidence to support the limitations
caused by ADHD that has prevented the adult performing a substantial gainful activity for the past 12 months or will prevent the adult from doing so for the next 12 months or longer.


The Blue Book requires that a child with ADHD display a “developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention,
impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.” To meet the requirements in the Blue Book, there must be medically documented evidence of the inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.

In addition to the medical evidence, the ADHD disorder in a child under the age of three must result in the child not developing gross or fine motor skills, cognitive communication, or social functioning that a child one half of his or her age has developed.  If the development or function in two areas is impaired by ADHD, the measurement is compared to a child that is two thirds the chronological age of the child.

In children over the ages three to eighteen, ADHD must result in the marked impairment of at least two of the following:

  • Age appropriate cognitive or communication function

  • Age appropriate social functioning

  • Age appropriate personal functioning

  • Maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace

How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The steps to apply for SSI for your child are available online. You must complete the Child Disability Report and schedule an appointment with your local SSA office by calling 1-800-772-1213.

To apply for adult SS disability benefits, you may complete an online application, contact the SSA at the above number, or contact your local Social Security office.

This article was contributed by
Social Security Disability Help. For any additional questions, please feel free to shoot us an email at


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