Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious mental health condition that is often misunderstood. PTSD develops after a person goes through a near-death or extremely traumatizing life event. A person with this mental disorder may have their life disrupted in many ways and may be unable to maintain steady employment. Fortunately, disability compensation benefits may be available through programs administered by Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration.
Disability Law Group can help with your PTSD claim for benefits. Our disability lawyers have experience working with claimants with various mental health conditions and have a network of mental health professionals we can turn to for help establishing your claim for benefits. Contact us today to take advantage of a free consultation with a knowledgeable and compassionate disability lawyer.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can affect anyone, including children, veterans, men, and women. Symptoms vary depending on the person and circumstances. Common symptoms that many people suffering from PTSD report feeling include:
- Re-experiencing trauma in different forms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and/or intrusive recollections or thoughts of the traumatic event
- Increased arousal and related symptoms, which may include feeling easily startled, angered, difficulty concentrating, and/or poor sleep
- Emotional numbing and avoidance of certain triggers of the trauma (such as places, noises, scents, and/or certain activities)
Who Suffers from PTSD?
PTSD affects many people with various backgrounds. PTSD is one of the most commonly claimed service-connected disabilities for veterans, but many other people are at risk of developing PTSD. Those who are more likely to develop PTSD include people who have experienced or witnessed:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual violence
- War or combat
- Losing a child
- Serious health scares
- Serious accidents
- Other traumatic events in which their or their loved ones’ lives were threatened
Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits for PTSD
Various mental health problems, including PTSD, can make a person eligible for Social Security Disability benefits when the disability prevents the claimant from maintaining substantial gainful activity.
In support of your disability claim, you will want to ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has all relevant medical evidence so that it can be considered in your case. In evaluating your case, SSA will consider the following information in your complete medical records:
- When you sought treatment
- Your reason for seeking treatment
- Whether you have followed your doctor’s orders
- The symptoms you have experienced
- The type of treatment you received, such as therapy with a mental health professional and/or medication
- Whether treatment has helped you
- The possible side effects of the medication you are taking
Depending on the case, you may want to submit reports from any of the following relevant sources:
- Family members
- Case managers
- Social workers
- Shelter staff
- Other community workers or sources
In considering these third-party reports, the SSA will consider how they match up to your medical records and your own statements regarding your symptoms and functioning.
Our federal government has more recently enacted rules and specific criteria that will allow people who experience PTSD to be eligible for federal disability benefits. If you experience PTSD symptoms that impact your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, as well as the insurance programs that accompany these programs.
The SSA uses a five-step evaluation for disability claims. It reviews the severity of a PTSD diagnosis in the third step. We provide a full summary of each of these steps under the Applying for Social Security Disability section of our website. You can contact us anytime for questions about the process or for help.
Listing 12.15 addresses trauma and stressor-related disorders, including PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD may be found disabled and eligible for SSD or SSI, regardless of whether their symptoms meet or medically equal the criteria set out below if their symptoms seriously interfere with their ability to work. Before the SSA evaluates how these symptoms affect jobs, a diagnosis of PTSD is evaluated under Listing 12.15.
You may be found “disabled” under the SSA’s strict criteria for PTSD under Listing 12.15 if there is medical documentation of:
- Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence
- Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks)
- Disturbance of mood or behavior
- Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response and sleep disturbance)
In fact, there are additional factors that may qualify for a finding of disability under SSA rules. An experienced PTSD attorney who keeps up-to-date on Social Security’s ever-changing laws and regulations can help you understand whether you can qualify for disability benefits and walk you through the process. The waiting period can be lengthy and overwhelming, and the longer an individual waits to apply for disability benefits, the more difficult it may be to qualify. If you experience PTSD symptoms that interfere with your functioning, including your ability to hold down a job, contact one of our caring attorneys to help you understand your rights and alleviate the stress of the process.
Applying for VA Disability Benefits
Those who have completed military service, especially active duty, are more likely to develop PTSD than civilians. While anyone could experience PTSD symptoms, our veterans returning home from combat are often diagnosed with this disorder. Troops who are deliberately put in harm’s way to fight for their lives while protecting our country and those exposed to the unspeakable horrors of war understandably often battle symptoms of PTSD. Another way to obtain compensation for PTSD is to make a VA disability claim.
In recent years, PTSD has begun to receive the serious attention it deserves. Regulations passed in 2010 have made it considerably easier for veterans with PTSD to qualify for VA disability benefits.
To be approved for Veterans Service Connected Disability benefits based on PTSD, you must submit a specific application form unique to the VA. Once the VA receives your application, your PTSD claims will be evaluated by a VA psychiatrist or psychologist.
The following criteria are required for service connection based on PTSD:
- A diagnosis of PTSD
- Documentation confirming symptoms related to a traumatic event in the military, an in-service stressor powerful enough to result in PTSD
- Proof the stressor must be related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity
- Evidence the stressor is likely to have happened in the location and under the circumstances of your service
Before 2010, you had to provide evidence that the traumatic event actually occurred, which was often impossible to do in a service-related setting where many records or proofs are destroyed or simply unavailable. Having this rule deleted has streamlined the process of getting disability benefits for veterans with PTSD. Depending on the severity of your PTSD symptoms and the limitations they cause, you may receive a veteran’s disability rating up to 100%. Lower ratings are possible, though. For example, if your PTSD is well-controlled by mental health therapy and medication, you might receive a disability rating of 10 or 20%.
On the other hand, if your PTSD symptoms interfere with your daily life to the extent that you’re unable to work or even socialize, you may be rated 100% disabled. If certain criteria are met, you may also be deemed totally disabled and unemployable, making you eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). An additional claim filing will be required for the VA to award a veteran TDIU. An experienced attorney can help you understand what VA benefits you may be eligible for and how to proceed.
If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD symptoms, you may be entitled to collect Veterans’ Disability benefits even if you are still able to work. If these symptoms, alone or in combination with other medical conditions, interfere with your ability to work, you may also be able to collect Social Security Disability benefits. Because of the difficulty navigating the bureaucracy of government programs, having a caring and knowledgeable veterans’ disability attorney in your corner is essential. At the Disability Law Group, our disability attorneys are compassionate and highly skilled. We will fight for your right to receive disability benefits as you continue to battle the often terrifying symptoms of PTSD.
Suffering PTSD symptoms puts you at increased risk of a host of other medical and psychiatric problems such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety disorder, and suicide. If you or someone you know suffers from thoughts of suicide, know there is help available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to seeking help from your doctor and family or support network, you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 800-273-8255.
Give Yourself the Best Chance of Success
At the Disability Law Group, we are all too familiar with the anguish PTSD causes veterans and civilians alike, as well as the additional toll it places on the family. You do not have to go through the process alone. Put our talented, understanding veterans disability attorneys to work for you to seek the benefits you deserve. We have extensive experience advancing claims for Veterans’ and Social Security Disability benefits. Take advantage of your free consultation by calling us or filling out one of the contact forms on our website.
Disability Law Group can help Michigan residents file claims for PTSD disability, including in Macomb County, Wayne County, and Oakland County.
“I originally applied for SSDI 4 years ago and was denied multiple times. From the first conversation with Erika Riggs and her team I knew I was in good hands. They are very professional, easily understood my situation and were great to work with. I did not have to worry about anything they knew exactly what needed to be done. I no longer had to stress over the situation, I just put everything in their hands. They handled my situation with care and empathy and kept me informed every step of the way. She even checked on me after the approval to make sure I understood the process going forward and we went over all the correspondence I received from social security together. I would most definitely recommend Erika Riggs and her team. Thank you so much Erika!” T.W