PTSD and Social Security Benefits

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Those who have suffered through a traumatic event such as military combat, domestic abuse, or a serious accident, may be left with an anxiety disorder known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When living with PTSD, a person may experience panic attacks and flashbacks that can make it difficult to go about day to day life. You see, PTSD goes beyond the standard shock or fear a person may feel after experiencing a trauma. The symptoms of PTSD can be severe and last indefinitely. This can be further exacerbated with lack of proper treatment. There is help available to those suffering from PTSD. Medication, counseling, and therapy can be invaluable. There may also be Social Security benefits available to help provide the person with financial support.

PTSD and Social Security Benefits

As someone who has been diagnosed with and suffers from PTSD, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration must first find that you have a disabling condition. This can be done by providing sufficient medical documentation that you satisfy the criteria of the PTSD disability listing. The PTSD disability listing requires medical documentation of:

  • Exposure to a death, threat of death, serious injury, or violence
  • Experiencing involuntary reenactments of the traumatic event through things such as dreams or flashbacks
  • Avoiding external reminds of the traumatic event
  • Experiencing disturbances in mood and behavior
  • Having increases in “arousal and reactivity” as a result of the traumatic event (this may include something like trouble sleeping or an exaggerated startle response)

In addition to documentation demonstrating the above, the applicant for disability benefits must show that they have experienced severe or extreme limitations in certain areas. More specifically, the applicant must show that they have a severe limitation in two of the following areas:

  • The ability to adapting or manage oneself, including regulating emotions and the ability to adapt to a changing environment.
  • The ability to interact with others in ways that fit social norms.
  • The ability to concentrate on specific tasks and complete work in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The ability to learn, understand, and retain information, including following a set of instructions and being able to apply learning new things to a task.

You may also be eligible for Social Security benefits due to PTSD by receiving a medical vacation allowance. You will need to prove that the impairments you have due to PTSD prevent you from maintaining full-time employment. To be granted these benefits, the SSA will review your work history, age, and education as well as your Residual Functional Capacity which is your remaining ability to work despite your detailed impairments.

Proper medical documentation will be critical in successfully seeking Social Security benefits. This means providing the relevant hospital records and clinic notes taken from your treating doctors, counselors, and other mental health professionals. Be specific and detailed in talking with your doctors so that they can adequately document the limitations you are experiencing due to your PTSD. This will be especially important in allowing your doctor to accurately complete your Residual Functional Capacity Form (RFC) which specifically addresses your work-related limitations.

Disability Attorney

Do you suffer from PTSD and are unable to work as a result? The team at Disability Advocates can help you through the Social Security benefits application process. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.