Can You Get Disability For PTSD?

Can You Get Disability For PTSD?

According to the National Center for PTSD, as many as eight million Americans may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during any given year. PTSD is a complex mental health condition and may sometimes be complicated by conditions like traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or pre-existing depression and anxiety. 

PTSD and disability

Getting a diagnosis and managing symptoms can be difficult. When PTSD becomes chronic and debilitating, sufferers may be unable to hold down a job, maintain relationships, or care for themselves. In cases like these, it is possible to qualify for SSDI. Find out more about getting disability benefits for PTSD from Social Security Disability Advocates USA.

Is PTSD Classified As a Disability by Social Security?

In short, yes. Post-traumatic stress disorder is included in the Social Security Administration’s blue book (a list of disabling impairments the agency uses to determine eligibility). PTSD is classed as a mental disorder; more specifically, the SSA considers it a “trauma- and stressor-related disorder.”

Trauma As Defined By the SSA

According to the SSA, trauma- or stressor-related disorders may be caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event, or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a close family member or close friend, and the psychological aftermath of clinically significant effects on functioning.”

A traumatic or stressful event may be an experience or witnessed experience that elicits feelings of intense fear, horror, and helplessness. This could be the result of active military combat, sexual or physical assault, childhood abuse, a serious car accident, or even a natural disaster. 

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma / Stressor-Related Disorders

Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD or other stressor-related disorders. Those who do may experience a wide variety and severity of symptoms that can resolve in weeks, months, or sometimes become chronic. The SSA describes some (but not all) possible signs and symptoms of this type of disorder:

  • Anxiety
  • Avoidant behavior
  • Chronic inability to experience positive emotions
  • Difficult concentrating
  • Diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Distressing memories, dreams, and flashbacks
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Persistent negative emotional states (i.e., fear or anger)
  • Sleep disturbances

How Hard Is It to Get Disability Benefits for PTSD?

disability benefits for PTSD

In order to be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you’ll need to submit adequate evidence of your disability. Being diagnosed with PTSD on its own is not enough to automatically qualify you for benefits, so it’s crucial that you have the proper documentation before beginning the disability application process.

In addition to listing conditions that may qualify for disability, the blue book also describes the criteria applicants must meet in order to receive benefits. For trauma- and stressor-related disorders such as PTSD or complex PTSD, the following requirements must be met.

Qualifying for PTSD Disability

To qualify for disability benefits for PTSD or other trauma disorders, you will need to provide sufficient medical documentation of the following symptoms:

  • Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence
  • Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (i.e., flashbacks or nightmares)
  • Avoidance of external reminders of the event
  • Mood and behavior disturbances
  • Increases in arousal and reactivity (i.e., increased startle response or insomnia)

In addition to medical documentation of the aforementioned symptoms, you must also suffer from extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:

  • The ability to understand, remember, and apply information
  • The ability to interact with others
  • The ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain a pace
  • The ability to adapt or manage oneself

Alternatively, you may also qualify for SSDI benefits due to PTSD if your mental disorder is considered serious and persistent. The SSA defines this as a medically documented history of the disorder for at least two years in conjunction with evidence of both of the following:

  • You have received medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support, or have been in an ongoing, highly-structured setting designed to manage and diminish the symptoms of your disorder
  • You are capable of only marginal adjustment—i.e., you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life

Qualifying for a Medical Vocational Allowance

disability benefits for PTSD

If your condition doesn’t meet all the SSA blue book requirements for trauma or stressor-related disorders, you still have a chance of qualifying for disability benefits for PTSD through something called medical vocational allowance. Although it might be disheartening to find out that your condition doesn’t qualify under blue book standards, the fact remains that many SSDI recipients actually qualify for their disability benefits via a medical vocational allowance.

Here’s how it works: if you don’t meet blue book requirements for a trauma- or stressor-related disorder, the SSA is still required to more closely examine your case. If your medical evidence substantiates your claim that PTSD keeps you from maintaining gainful employment, you can still be found eligible for SSDI benefits.

During the process, you’ll be subject to a residual functional capacity (RFC) exam by an SSA medical consultant. An RFC helps the SSA establish what kind of work—if any—you’re capable of performing. The results of the RFC, in addition to other factors (including your age, work history, education level, and job skills), will ultimately determine your eligibility.

How Do I Apply for Disability If I Have PTSD?

Applying for disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other Social Security programs can be intimidating. Not to mention, the SSA itself reports that more than two-thirds of first-time SSDI applications are denied. 

If you’re thinking about applying for disability benefits for PTSD, it is strongly recommended to consult a Social Security disability attorney first. An experienced lawyer who specializes in SSDI can help you gather crucial evidence and medical documentation, review your application for common mistakes that result in a denial, and walk you through the potentially lengthy and confusing appeals process..

For a free consultation regarding your case, contact Social Security Disability Advocates USA. Our qualified legal team is committed to helping disabled workers get the benefits they deserve to cover day-to-day living expenses and much-needed medical and psychological care. 

To secure your free, no obligation case review, give us a call 24/7 at 602-952-3200. You can also submit your request online by filling out this form, or connect with a representative standing by via LiveChat.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

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