Getting Social Security for ADHD Children

It is possible to get Social Security benefits for your ADHD child. Read my experience plus helpful tips about applying and links.

My Two Cents on Social Security

Several years ago, I applied for Social Security benefits for my son James who has ADHD. I did this for several reasons. The first was because of his medical condition and the second was for the medical benefits. Being disabled myself left me with no other medical coverage for my son other than the states med-i-cal program which was hit very hard in the mental health services for children shortly after James was diagnosed.

On top of already scarce mental health clinics with large and long waiting lists, children's mental health services took huge budget cuts. This left help for children such as James at a minimum and only children who were in danger of being removed from their homes and placed into foster care or children who had crossed the boundaries into the Judicial system were given access to mental health services. Having social security benefits did several things for my son.

1). It opened the doors to doctors that before would not see him because he was on the state med-i-cal program, and two. Secondly, it allowed a cash benefit to obtain services that were not covered by giving us the extra cash we needed to pay for those services. It also allowed me to put James into programs that helped him tremendously with self esteem and social issues that we could not otherwise afford.

Social Security Benefits for Children with ADHD

I had a reader write to me and ask me for my best advice on applying for social security benefits for children with disabilities, so I thought that I would share what I learned with all my readers. At the time I applied for SSI for my son, I felt, as did his doctors, that James had a severe case of ADHD. It was explained to me that I should apply for social security in order to get the medical benefits that would allow me to obtain treatment for James and that due to the severity of the James' condition at the time, his doctors felt that there would be no problem getting him approved. Needless to say, I was surprised when James was denied SSI and also a bit angry when I had knowledge of other children, not nearly as affected by ADHD, as James that had been approved. This didn't make sense to me and hinted that there must be other factors involved when approving someone for social security other than medical fact. So I appealed the decision and started making phone calls and you'd be surprised what I learned.

One roadblock I ran into was the school district. Not only did they provide only minimal information during the first SSI inquiry, but they refused to even fill out the information for the appeal. The school psychologist and the teacher decided not to comply with the new request for information citing that paperwork had been done once before and that they were busy and couldn't stop what they were doing to fill out more paperwork. I felt this attitude was not only typical of the school district, but I was outraged at their audacity! How dare they take it upon themselves to assume that my son didn't need the benefits which SSI could provide for him which is how I interpreted their actions and attitude.

I started making phone calls after my son was denied and I learned that each worker is assigned X number of cases and they have X number of days once that case hits their desk to process it and move it off of their desk by either denying the case or approving it. Part of their evaluation for job performance is based on how effectively and timely cases pass through their hands. I found out that the worker who initially had my case denied it the day before he went on vacation. I concluded that the decision on my son's case was influenced by a worker, who in an attempt to clear their calendar before leaving on vacation, hurriedly and careless passed judgments on my son's disability in order to maintain their performance record.

The individuals and agencies that they contact in order to gain information on your child are not bound by any laws or regulations to comply with Social Security. If they send the information in by the time the file has to be processed or moved on that's fine. If not, the decision is made without the information. The next thing I learned was that the worker who was in charge of my son's appeal, had some education in psychology and felt that ADD/ADHD was not a disorder but basically a parental problem and issue of environment. These children don't have a disorder, they suffer from bad parenting and parents who have no desire to parent their children in a fashion that commands discipline or forces them to function. She went on to tell me that if these parents would simply spank these children and enforce penalties for bad behavior, these children would straighten up!

In retrospect, if I had to do it all over again, my best advice is this:

  • Be very complete and thorough when answering the questionnaires you will be sent. Take time to explain every item in detail and don't be bashful about using additional paper. In fact, I used a separate piece of paper for each question and numbered them to correspond with the questionnaire and used my word processor to compile a neat and legible report leaves you with a file you can return to if needed.

  • When you initially apply, do not leave it in the hands of others to insure that Social Security gets all the information they need to make an accurate and fair decision in your case. Gather as much information from every source that has documentation on how ADD/ADHD and any related disorders or issues affects your child's ability to function, day to day activities, and his/her ability to operate as other children. If you can do this before hand and send it in with your application, all the better.

  • Keep tight tabs on the progress of your application. I was able to call the Main Social Security Office to find out if my son's case had been assigned, and to whom it was assigned and also left a message for that worker to contact me.

  • I kept in close contact with my doctors, asking them if they had been contacted by social security and followed up to make sure they sent the records being requested.

  • Without harassing the worker about approving the case, I simply kept in contact to ensure that those contacted were complying with social security's requests. The worker was more than happy to tell me who had complied and who had not and I was able to contact the individuals and agencies involved and be sure they send the information requested out in a timely fashion. I did this because I learned during the appeal that those contacted for information on your child are in no way obligated by any laws or rules that they comply with any request for records. If any agency should fail to send in requested info, Social Security will make it's decision based on what they have which may not be enough.

  • Last but not least. DO NOT be afraid to stand up for your child's rights! YOU are his/her only advocate. In the end, I went to my Congressman to be sure that my child was getting an impartial, unbiased and fair judgment in his case.

One more note before I get off my soapbox :) Another valuable lesson I learned was that when you initially apply for Social Security benefits for your child, they have a certain time frame in which to open/close the case. When you appeal a decision, your case comes under a whole new set of guidelines and rules and and can sit on someone's desk for months before it becomes active again.

I was told off the record, by a social security worker, that I would have been better off had I chose NOT to appeal the decision, waited the allotted time limit, and then just re-applied. This would have placed the case back at the beginning, with the original time table and minus, any bias or judgmental input from previous workers. The down side to this is that if you choose to do this, you lose your original filing date and you start over which will affect what Social Security will owe you once you are approved.

For the latest information on Social Security benefits for children with disabilities.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2000, January 5). Getting Social Security for ADHD Children, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: February 13, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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