Are Children More Easily Approved for Social Security Disability?

Children often have a harder time getting approved for disability through the SSI program.

No, children's SSI disability cases are often harder to win than adult cases. This is probably true because many children's disability claims tend to involve one or more of the following impairments:

Each of these medical conditions common in children can be difficult to win benefits for, except in severe cases. Regarding the first two impairments, children are evaluated according to the number of documented attacks they experience (seizures or asthma attacks requiring hospitalization) within a specified period of time and whether they are on medication for their disorder. In the case of asthma, without the use of prescribed steroids (such as prelone syrup or solumedrol), the disability claims examiner might not believe that the severity of the asthma rises to the level of disability.

In the case of seizure disorder, medication usage is often an issue. If a child has seizures despite taking prescribed medication, and the frequency of documented seizures meets the requirements spelled out in SSA's Impairment Listing Manual, the child is likely to get a disability approval. But if the doctor suspects the child is not taking seizure medication as prescribed, or the child's parents can't afford the seizure medication, Social Security can't know if the seizure disorder would still be disabling if the child took the medication as directed. For more information, see our article on how not taking medication affects disability decisions.

Regarding ADHD and learning disabilities, children are rarely granted benefits for these conditions. Many more parents apply for SSI disability for their children because of ADHD or learning disabilities than will qualify for disability. Much depends on teacher observations and whether or not a child has recently been administered psychological testing (such as the WISC-III, or Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children, version 3) or achievement testing. If a child with ADHD or a learning disability is not receiving special education, doesn't have an IEP in place, and has no evidence of measurable functional deficits in school, the child won't be approved for disability. For more information, see our articles on disability for children with ADHD and disability for learning disabilities.

In addition, the one similarity in the disability evaluation process that connects each of these conditions is the fact that as children grow older, their conditions often progress for the better. It often happens that by the time a child claimant has a hearing before an administrative law judge (which can take a couple of years after the initial application has been filed), the child's status in school or medical condition has improved.

Learn more about getting SSI disability benefits for children.

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