Is PTSD A Disability?

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The short answer is yes. An individual that has ongoing symptoms related to a stressful or traumatic event can apply for disability for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You will need to meet the eligibility criteria mentioned in the Blue Book of the SSA.  

The Americans WIth Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 specifies PTSD as a protected disability. With a protected disability, your employer must provide you with accommodations for your work. Accommodations must be aligned with the needs of the individual. 

ptsd disabilityMany people with PTSD deal with serious episodes of nightmares and anxiety in their day-to-day lives. The condition is considered a permanent Veterans Affairs (VA) disability. The Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes PTSD as a disability and a severe mental condition that can profoundly change one’s life. Thus, veterans that have the condition and cannot work are eligible for disability payment.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) added PTSD as a disabling condition in the year 2017. It is covered under disability listing 12.15 the SSA’s Blue Book, trauma and stress disorders. 

People who face disabling symptoms for under a year can explore short-term disability plans. In exceptional cases, an individual may experience serious episodes of nightmares, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression from PTSD. These symptoms secondary to the PTSD may be disabling and affect the person’s ability to support themselves.

What is PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying or traumatic event. People with this condition often experience disturbing, intrusive thoughts. 

These thoughts may remain for years, even years after the traumatic event. Counseling and relaxation techniques often help patients cope with the condition.

Symptoms PTSD patients may exhibit

PTSD may disrupt everyday activities and brain functioning. Its symptoms fall under the following four groups: 

  • Avoidance – An individual may tend to avoid the places, people, and situations that remind them of the traumatic event. 
  • Cognition and mood – An individual may develop negative thoughts and feelings of guilt. 
  • Intrusion – The unpleasant memories may lead to nightmares and other changes in mental state. 
  • Arousal and reactivity – The individual may have difficulty concentrating and a constant feeling of being on edge. 

Common treatments for PTSD include medications, psychotherapy, and other therapies.

What are the long-term effects of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder may have a long-term effect on a patient’s life and overall health. Following are some of the potential long-term effects:

  1. Anxiety

People with this condition often experience intense pain, fear, and nervousness. At times, an individual may even feel they are in danger and act aggressively toward others. Many people rely on destructive coping mechanisms such as drug or alcohol use to try to cope with the condition. This can result in worsened anxiety and further mental health complications.

  1.  Social withdrawal

People often avoid socializing with family and friends. They may refuse to participate and engage in social gatherings. This behavior may exacerbate feelings of insecurity and helplessness. It can impact an individual’s ability to live and work.  

  1. Insomnia and sleep disturbances

Someone with PTSD may experience difficulty sleeping due to nightmares. Memories of the traumatic event may affect the person’s ability to rest and sleep well. Lack of sleep increases the risk of additional health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

  1.  Shame or guilt

After experiencing a traumatic event, an individual may feel ashamed, or they may blame themselves for the traumatic event. This can further lead to serious mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. They may believe that they could have done things differently or in a way that would have resulted in a different outcome. 

  1.  Chronic pain

Events such as motor vehicle accidents, physical or sexual assault, psychological abuse, or a natural disaster may lead to severe illnesses. An individual may encounter subsequent chronic pain from these events. 

The unexpected pain may remind the person of the traumatic event. It can make the symptoms even worse and contribute to the deterioration of the victim’s mental health.

Can You Get Disability for PTSD?

Those with PTSD might be eligible to get disability, as the condition is listed in the Blue Book under listing 12.15 or 112.15. But, although the SSA recognizes the diagnosis as a disabling condition, you must still meet the specific eligibility requirements in the Blue Book to establish your entitlement.

To be approved, you must show that you have severe or extreme limitations in the following areas:

  • Adapting to change
  • Managing oneself 
  • Performing personal activities such as cooking, cleaning, and wearing appropriate attire
  • Interacting and socializing with others 
  • Concentrating on or completing work
  • Learning, understanding, and remembering information
  • Following novel instructions

If you are not experiencing any extreme or severe limitations in the above areas, you can provide documents to increase your chances of approval for disability for PTSD that prove the following: 

  • You have had the condition for at least two years
  • You are undergoing ongoing medical treatment
  • Mental health therapy is not helping to improve the condition 
  • You have a minimum capacity to adapt to new changes 

Alternatively, you can seek benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. A medical-vocational allowance is a type of approval that considers the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) of an individual, including their job history, age, education, training, etc. The SSA analyzes a person’s ability to perform and function in different capacities despite their condition. 

Eligibility Criteria for PTSD

You can get disability benefits when you have medical evidence that meets the eligibility criteria listed in the Blue Book. 

To get approval for Disability Benefits after age 50, 60, or later, your condition must be severe enough and should limit your abilities. You must have medical documents and evidence to prove the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of your current treatment (or lack thereof). 

Documents should include psychiatric treatment, doctor or clinical notes, physical examinations, and/or medical diagnosis reports. Brain scans and X-ray images should also be included to support the disability benefits application.

Without medical evidence, it is unlikely that SSA will approve your application. You must have documents to prove that the trauma of the event still affects your ability to function normally and maintain gainful employment. The documents must demonstrate how symptoms lead to disturbances in mood and behavior. All your symptoms and medical conditions, such as sleep disturbance and depression, should be in the application.

Want to get benefits for PTSD? File a disability claim

Contact a disability attorney to learn more about how those with PTSD can qualify for disability benefits. An experienced disability lawyer can evaluate your case and explain every detail along your path. Schedule a free case consultation today.


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