Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Are Disability Benefits Available?

Children or teenagers with severe hostility, lack of impulse control, and impaired social functioning may qualify for SSI benefits.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a mental impairment that affects children, generally in their adolescence. While it is normal for a child to go through some level of disobedience in their youth, ODD goes beyond normal disobedience and often rise to a level that requires professional help. If your child has ODD and it has affected their ability to function, they may be eligible for disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

Overview of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

ODD generally begins in children before the age of eight years old. While it can begin later than eight years old, it rarely begins in children who have already entered their teenage years.

Symptoms usually begin mild and get worse over time. In order to fit this diagnosis, children must have symptoms that are constant for at least six months, and these symptoms must significantly interfere with their home or school environment and/or with social activities. Symptoms can include:

  • feelings of anger or resentment towards others
  • hostility towards people in positions of authority
  • temper tantrums; loses temper easily
  • argumentative with adults and refuses to comply with their requests
  • annoys others on purpose
  • blames others for their mistakes or misbehaviors
  • gets annoyed easily; touchy
  • is spiteful and seeks revenge, and
  • aggression towards others his age.

Children with ODD do not see their behavior as defiant. They feel as though others are putting unreasonable demands on them when they are asked to behave properly. Some children are diagnosed with ODD because they are explosive and angry, but sometimes they are actually just easily frustrated and inflexible; these children may not be disobeying authority on purpose.

Related Impairments

ODD is often times a symptom of another mental impairment. Those with ODD might also suffer from:

ODD can also precede borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.

    Qualifying for Disability Benefits

    In order to receive SSI benefits, the family with whom the child lives must meet SSI income limits. If the income requirements are met, Social Security will assess the child's mental status by looking at medical records and sometimes by sending the child to a consultative examination.

    If your child’s ODD is a symptom of another mental impairment, such as anxiety or depression, your child’s impairment should be evaluated under the appropriate children's mental health listing.

    If your child’s ODD is not a symptom of another mental impairment, you may be able to receive benefits for your child by showing that their impairments functionally equal the listings (there isn't a disability listing for ODD). There are six areas of functioning that Social Security looks at when determining whether or not your child’s impairments are equivalent to the listings. They are:

    • interacting and relating with others
    • caring for oneself
    • having good physical well-being
    • attending and completing tasks
    • acquiring and using information, and
    • moving about and manipulating objects.

    If the child's ODD could cause an extreme limitation in social functioning or a severe limitation in social functioning plus a limitation in one other area, such as caring for oneself. For children with ODD that is severe, the ability to function at school due to difficulty with interactions with those in positions of authority, and listening and responding properly to their teachers, would be seriously limited. Additionally, difficulty with controlling their temper and interacting with others their age would further limit their overall functional ability. Depending on the circumstances, these limitations could be considered extreme enough to be equivalent to the listings.

    Turning 18

    Children who have received benefits for ODD will need to be reevaluated when they turn 18 years old. If untreated or unresponsive to treatment, ODD can develop into conduct disorder or antisocial or borderline personality disorder in adulthood.

    When a child turns 18, the SSA evaluates ongoing mental impairments using SSA's Listing 12.00 for adult mental disorders. For more information on the reevaluation that occurs when a child 18, see our article on age 18 redeterminations.

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