Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is one of the most common mental disorders present in children today. This disorder not only affects children, but it also affects many adults as well. In some cases, it might become severe enough that the impairment limits a person’s ability to work or attend school. So, is ADHD considered a disability and can you receive disability benefits if you are diagnosed with the condition? The answer to that question might seem simple on its face, but the devil is in the details. Whether you can receive SSI or SSDI benefits due to ADHD is a complicated issue, and we will walk you through those details here. Keep reading to learn more.
Is ADHD A Disability?
The short answer is yes, ADHS is a disability. It is officially recognized as a disability at the Federal level by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prevents employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD. However, if the employer has fewer than 15 employees, then those protections would only exist under state anti-discrimination laws.
Even under the ADA, the rules are very strict around who qualifies for protection. Simply being diagnosed with ADHD is not enough. Mild cases or cases that are controlled with medication do not qualify a person for protection. The case must be severe, and the person must be severely impacted in their daily life and ability to perform job functions. Only these very severe cases will qualify for protection under the ADA. In these cases, an employer may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee to perform his or her work.
Since this disorder is much more common in children, let’s spend a few moments talking about children, specifically. ADHD is considered a developmental disability in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is one of the most common developmental disabilities found in children today. ADHD affects a child’s neurodevelopment, and it is considered a developmental disability much like autism, intellectual disabilities, vision impairment, a brain injury, or hearing loss. It is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children today. Many people ask, “Is ADHD a form of autism,” but the two disorders are completely separate.
So, is ADHD a learning disability? Oddly enough, ADHD is not considered a learning disability. Learning disabilities are a very specific subtype of developmental disabilities, and there are strict guidelines on what constitutes a learning disability. However, research has shown that around half of children with ADHD have a corresponding learning disability that makes it difficult for them to absorb information in a traditional classroom setting. When a child suffers from severe ADHD, they often need to attend special education classes to stay current on their coursework.
What Are Some Of The Symptoms of ADHD?
There is no test or lab work that a doctor can perform for an easy diagnosis of ADHD. Instead, the doctor must observe the patient and their behavior over a period of time and look for the appropriate symptoms. In some cases, mental health tests may be performed. The symptoms experienced between two people may be completely different, although they might both suffer from ADHD. Symptoms might be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe cases might even limit a person in performing major life activities.
Some of the most common symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating or inattentiveness
- Inability to follow instructions
- Cannot control impulses
- Impulsiveness or impulsive behavior
- Distractibility – easily distracted
- Inability to remember small details
- Poor time management skills
As previously stated, symptoms of ADHD can vary between individuals. Just because two people do not have the exact same symptoms does not mean that they cannot both suffer from this disorder. One may suffer from extreme inattention while the other has severe impulsivity. Both may have ADHD, but it might manifest itself in very different ways. Only a medical professional can make an accurate diagnosis of this disorder.
Can Someone Receive Social Security Disability Benefits With ADHD?
The answer is yes, although there are a few disclaimers to that response. When it comes to ADHD, the Social Security Administration has very strict rules about who can qualify for benefits with an ADHD diagnosis. For adults seeking assistance from SSDI benefits, there are a few rules that must be met. The SSA will only award benefits to those with extremely severe cases of the disorder. Whether your disability benefits are taxable will depend on your total income.
First, awards are typically only given to those individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD since childhood. The claimant must show proof that the disorder severely impairs their ability to maintain a job. Providing prior work records and medical records can help prove these items. In addition, the medical records must show diagnosed inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Medical records that show evidence of problems communicating or participating in social situations can also be helpful in getting a favorable decision. These records may come in the form of therapist notes, a psychological evaluation, or regular medical exams. Since the disorder needs to have existed since childhood, it is almost impossible to qualify for long-term disability benefits from your insurance company because of ADHD. Similarly, ADHD is not going to qualify you for short-term disability because of the ongoing nature of the disease.
So, what about children? Obviously, children will not be able to qualify for SSDI benefits since they have no work history. However, in some cases, they may be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This is because of the differences in SSDI versus SSI benefits. You should note, though, that the requirements to qualify a child’s ADHD as a disability are basically the same as the requirements for showing an adult is disabled because of ADHD. In addition, since the income limits for SSI apply to both children and parents, a child will likely not receive benefits unless a parent already receives Social Security benefits or has extremely limited income and resources.
Filing for Social Security Disability With an ADHD Diagnosis
We have already discussed that your ADHD subtype will need to be the combined type – meaning that you have both the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms – to qualify for disability benefits. It can be difficult to accurately complete your application, gather the necessary medical records, and thoroughly present your case and evidence to the SSA. In most cases, it is wise to consult the help of a disability attorney when attempting to get SSDI benefits with an ADHD diagnosis. A disability attorney can help sift through your medical records and tell you exactly what you must prove to get approved for benefits.
Managing Your ADHD
So, is ADHD a mental disorder that can be easily managed? Many people experience a drop in self-esteem as a result of an ADHD diagnosis, but there are many things that you can do to manage this condition. Many people are able to effectively manage the condition using medication or a combination of medication and psychotherapy. You should know that ADHD is treated very differently in adults versus children, so never assume that what works for your child will work for you. Always consult the help and advice of a qualified medical professional. With a little work and the right help, most people are able to live mostly normal lives and keep their ADHD under control.
Millions of children and adults in the U.S. suffer from ADHD and many of them have very severe cases. ADHD is considered a disability, though you may only be entitled to receive benefits from Social Security in the most severe cases. There are strict rules concerning what you must prove to get qualified, and the disorder must severely limit your ability to hold a job and perform your daily activities. If you think you might qualify, then go ahead and file your application with the SSA and enlist the help of a qualified attorney when the time comes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ADHD a disability or mental illness?
Perhaps you’re wondering, “Is ADHD a mental illness or a disability?” Technically, it qualifies as both. ADHD is a mental disorder that qualifies as a disability under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Even though it is considered a disability, the law only provides protection in the most severe of cases. A person must have extreme limitations in their ability to work or hold a job caused by the disorder to qualify for federal protection from discrimination or to receive benefits from Social Security.
What is the difference between ADHD and a learning disability?
Learning disabilities are a very specific subtype of developmental disabilities. People with learning disabilities have trouble understanding written or spoken words as well as difficulty performing calculations or other tasks. While ADHD is not considered a learning disability, about half of children diagnosed with ADHD also have a concurrent learning that makes it difficult for them to learn in the same manner as their peers in school.
Are employees with ADHD protected at work?
It depends. The ADA only applies to companies with more than 15 employees, so companies with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from the law. Some states have anti-discrimination laws that protect employees at businesses as small as 4 employees. When it comes to ADHD, a person’s case must be quite severe to qualify for protection under the ADA or these state laws. Mild cases and cases that are well managed using medication or other methods will not provide any protection for the employee.
Who decides if ADHD is a disability?
When it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security Administration will decide whether your ADHD constitutes a disability. The organization has well defined rules about what is required for ADHD to be considered a disability. If you are not satisfied with their initial decision, you can appeal that decision to an administrative law judge where you are able to present evidence supporting your claim.
What if my employer refuses to make ADHD accommodations?
Your specific situation will determine whether your employer is required to make accommodations for you. If the accommodation will present an extreme hardship or undue burden on the employer, then they will not be required to take action. For instance, if you ask to be moved into a private office that is completely soundproofed to help you concentrate, but your employer would have to spend thousands of dollars to remodel, then they likely will not be required to take that action.