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Social Security Disability Benefits For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD)
I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Receiving a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is just the start. The main focus in a Social Security disability claim is usually on the symptoms you experience from ADHD/ADD and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.
Is ADHD recognized as a disability?
ADHD is a mental disorder that causes you to have trouble concentrating, paying attention, and controlling your impulses. It typically starts during childhood and can remain until adulthood.
There are three categories of ADHD symptoms among children: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In adults, these symptoms may change or combine with other signs such as procrastination, anger control issues, disorganization, chronic boredom, and mood swings. Because of these, ADHD/ADD can affect your ability to maintain a relationship or hold down a job.
To determine if ADHD/ADD is disabling you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates it using a five-step process.
Step 1. Do you work gainfully?
At the first step, the SSA considers your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), you will not be found disabled. The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. For 2018, it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your ADHD and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.
Step 2. Can you ADHD be considered “severe”?
For the SSA to determine that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
To be found disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If your condition is that severe, the SSA goes to Step 3.
Step 3. Does your ADHD match an SSA Listing?
The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of medical criteria that are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. The Adult Listing for ADHD can be found here, while the Child Listing can be found here.
If you do not have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments – your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – and will proceed to Step 4.
RFC is a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments. In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.
Step 4. Can you still perform any of the work you’ve done in the last fifteen (15) years?
At this step, the SSA decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity (SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.
You have the “burden of proof” at Step 4 – that is, you must present evidence. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work. The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. The strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working and which are supported by objective medical evidence.
Some types of objective medical evidence that can support a claim for disability based upon ADHD/ADD include:
- Medical history
- Documentation of medical condition features such as hyperactive and impulsive behavior
- Records of any mental status examination
- Records of psychological testing
- Records of hospitalizations and treatment
Doctors and professionals who specialize in treating ADHD/ADD include:
- Psychiatrists – These mental health doctors can both prescribe medication and offer therapy.
- Psychologists – They focus on mental health therapies such as psychotherapy or talk therapy.
- Speech-language pathologists – These professionals specialize in speech and language development.
- Social workers, therapists, and counselors – Not doctors but trained professionals who provide therapy.
If you are only treating with your family doctor or primary care doctor for your ADHD, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist). An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).
Step 5. Can you take on other types of work?
At Step 5, the “burden of proof” shifts to the SSA. If you cannot do your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, SSA will determine you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.
Are you older than 50? There are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.
Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder a disability?
ADHD/ADD is one of the most common behavioral issues in the US, and the SSA is strict in evaluating disability claims based on this condition. Applying for disability benefits can be even more challenging for adults with ADHD, since the evaluation will heavily rely on how severely this condition affects the ability to earn.
Contact Gillette Law Group
To ensure that your disability application is effective, let us at Gillette Law Group assist you. We have years of experience in helping disability claimants succeed, whether in their first-time application or in their appeal of a rejected claim.
Our legal service can work to your advantage, too. Consult with us for free by calling (855) 873-2604 today.