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ADHD and children

Children with ADHD may qualify for SSI if they are under 18 and meet certain government standards, proving they are in fact, disabled. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a child must meet ALL of the following criteria to be considered disabled:

  1. He or she can't be working in a job that pays more than $1,000 a month. The SSA will not consider the child "disabled" if they are able to earn that much salary.
  2. The child must have "a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions" that causes them to suffer "marked and severe functional limitations."
  3. The child's condition or "combination of conditions" has to have lasted for at least 12 months, or be considered "life threatening."

So what exactly does that mean for a child diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)? How can these conditions be proven to cause "marked and severe functional limitations"?

The SSA will require you to submit detailed information about your child's medical condition, and how it affects their daily life. You may also be required to give the SSA permission to gather information from doctors, teachers, therapists, psychologists and others that have direct contact with your child. Once you've submitted a claim and the information has been gathered, the Disability Determination Services office in your state will conduct a review. It can take from three to five months for this agency to rule on your claim, but there is a possibility they could choose to pay you SSI for up to six months while your review is underway.

ADHD is the most common psychiatric disorder found in children, but there are stringent guidelines for its diagnosis, set up by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Symptoms of ADHD must appear before the child turns seven years old, continue for at least six months, and must affect at least two parts of the child's life. These include at school or in the classroom, on the playground, at home with family, in public, and in different social settings. A child may have trouble in just one of these areas, but not the rest, which would rule out a diagnosis of ADHD.

The SSA uses a set of guidelines called the "Listing of Impairments" manual when it rules on whether to pay SSI benefits. This rulebook mandates that two sets of requirements -- List A and List B -- are met. List A requires medical proof that the child suffers from "marked inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity." List B, which is specifically for children between 3 and 17, requires medical proof the child has two of three "marked impairment conditions" which include "age-appropriate cognitive and communication functioning, social functioning and personal functioning."

According to parents who have successfully filed a claim for SSI benefits for their ADHD child, being thorough is the key. Make sure all forms and questionnaires are completely filled out. Make sure all information from doctors, teachers and therapists is submitted. Follow up on everything. Find out who at the SSA is reviewing your claim and keep in touch with them. Offer to help in any way. Keep in close contact with everyone that is involved in submitting information for your claim to ensure they are doing their part. it's a big team effort and you are the quarterback.

My Child has ADHD and was denied disability benefits

Many claimants do not understand that just because you have a diagnosis for ADD or ADHD for your child that this may not be enough to win SSI benefits. As mentioned above, there are millions of children who have ADD or ADHD, but many of them will not have what the SSA terms a "developmentally inappropriate degree of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity."

Additionally, children must exhibit two of the following:Marked impairment in cognitive and communication function – This impairment must be measured and documented on standardized tests and supported by your child's medical history.

  • Marked impairment in age appropriate social functioning.
  • Marked impairment in age appropriate personal functioning.

Ways to improve your child's chances of winning SSI for ADD or ADHD?

  • Be thorough when you are completing information for the SSA.
  • Do not rely on school counselors or medical doctors to send the SSA the proper documentation. You may need to do multiple follow-ups or gather the information yourself and take it directly to the SSA.
  • Periodically review the progress of your SSI application. This may require periodic calls to the case worker who is reviewing your child's SSI application.
  • Talk to your child's doctor and find out what information they are willing to provide.

Other reasons you may be denied SSI
Keep in mind, because Supplemental Security Income is only offered to those children with limited income and resources it is possible to have a very disabled child who will not qualify for SSI benefits. Before you waste your time and that of the SSA, find out the resource and income limits of the SSI program and make sure you meet this nonmedical requirement BEFORE you apply for SSI benefits.

What are some issues in getting the treatment or help you need from others outside the SSA System?

  • Some people believe that an ADD or ADHD diagnosis in an excuse for misbehavior.
  • Some people have difficulty getting the proper diagnosis.
  • Parents are not sure how to effectively advocate for their child in an educational environment. This includes getting them the proper treatment and working with the school to get help.
  • Many people think ADD or ADHD is a problem that many children will grow out of as they reach adulthood.
  • Some people refuse or are unable to get the proper medical help they need.
  • Many people are not open to the right medical treatments.
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