Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can affect anyone – children to our veterans – men or women. While symptoms vary depending on the person and circumstances, many people suffering from PTSD report feeling symptoms including:
- 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 that may include feeling easily startled, angered, difficulty concentrating, and/or poor sleep.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of certain triggers of the trauma (e.g. places, noises, scents, and/or certain activities).
In support of your disability claim, you will want to ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has all relevant medical information so that all evidence may be considered in your case. In evaluating your case, SSA will also look at how well treatment has been effective for you, including therapy or medication, and will also consider the possible side effects of medications you are taking. Depending on the case, you may want to submit reports from any of the following relevant sources: family members, caregivers, friends, neighbors, case managers, social workers, shelter staff, or other community workers. In considering these third-party reports, the SSA will consider how they match up to your medical records as well as your own statements regarding your symptoms and functioning.
Our federal government has more recently enacted rules and specific criteria that will allow for people who experience PTSD to be eligible for federal disability benefits. If you or someone you know experiences PTSD symptoms that impact the ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments as well as the insurance programs that accompany these programs. As part of the 5-step evaluation process the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to evaluate a disability claim, the severity of a PTSD diagnosis is reviewed at step 3. We provide a full summary of each of these steps under the ‘Applying for Social Security disability’ section of our website and you can also contact us anytime for questions about the process or for help.
Listing 12.15 addresses Trauma and stressor-related disorder 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, sleep disturbance).
In fact, there are additional factors that may qualify for a finding of disability under SSA rules. An experienced 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 direct you on the best way to go about the process. The wait 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.
Special Criteria to Win VA Disability Benefits
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 BA disability benefits. While anyone could experience PTSD symptoms, our veterans returning home from combat are often diagnosed with this disorder. Though people can suffer from PTSD as a result of any trauma (e.g. assault, rape, earthquake, hurricane), 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.
In order 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 claim will be evaluated by a VA psychiatrist or psychologist. Regulations passed in 2010 have made it easier for you to qualify for Veterans Service-Connected Disability benefits based on PTSD. Specifically, the following criteria is required for service-connection based on PTSD:
- A diagnosis of PTSD.
- Documentation confirming symptoms related to a traumatic event in the military, a stressor powerful enough to result in PTSD.
- The stressor must be related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.
- The stressor is likely to have happened in the location and under the circumstances of your service.
Prior to 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 be rated at up to 100%. If, for example, your PTSD is well-controlled by mental health therapy and medication, you might receive a rating of 10 or 20 percent. 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 will likely be rated 100 percent disabled. If certain criteria is 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 go about the process.
If you are a veteran suffering with 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 invaluable. At Disability Law Group, our disability attorneys are compassionate as well as 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, 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 Disability Law Group, we are all too familiar with the anguish PTSD causes veterans and civilians alike, as well as the additional toll 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 get the benefits you deserve and to see you through the process. We are familiar with, and knowledgeable about, both Veterans’ and Social Security Disability Benefits and how to best get you the disability payments that will help you and your family. You can reach us by phone or email or fill out one of the contact forms on our website.