Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that people develop after, as the name suggests, experiencing a traumatic event such as combat, sexual assault, death, or a serious accident.
It is very normal to feel upset or have trouble sleeping after one of these traumatic events. However, if the symptoms persist after a few months, then you may have PTSD. This mental condition is not a sign of weakness and it can happen to anyone. There are a number of factors, such as previous exposure, stress, and even age might cause someone to have a propensity to develop PTSD.
Some of the symptoms might include flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, anger, depression, guilt, irritability, a tendency toward avoidance and isolation. Some of the problems associated with PTSD might include problems with relationships, drugs, alcohol, anxiety, hopelessness, and even chronic pain.
Obviously, with these symptoms and problems, many people with PTSD find it difficult to work a full-time job on a regular and consistent basis.
Getting Social Security Disability for PTSD
There are two main ways to win a disability claim for PTSD: through the Social Security's new disability listing and through a vocational expert.
Trauma- and stressor-related disorders (Listing 12.15)
The government has codified the medical criteria that apply to certain impairments, such as PTSD. If an individual can show that he or she satisfies this medical criterion, then that person is determined to be disabled as a matter of law. In 2017, Social Security updated its medical criteria for the disability listing on trauma- and stressor-related disorders (Listing 12.15).
The listing provides that once a diagnosis of PTSD is made by a psychologist or psychiatrist, then the medical documentation must show all five of the following:
- 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);
- avoidance of external reminders of the event;
- disturbance in mood and behavior, and
- increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).
If the above criteria are met, then the Social Security Administration will evaluate the extent of the applicant’s limitations. The applicant must be either “markedly” limited in two of the following areas or extreme in one.
- Understanding, remembering, or using information (i.e. learning, applying new knowledge to tasks, following instructions)
- Interacting with others appropriately
- Being able to concentrate, persist, and maintain pace in order to complete tasks in a timely manner
- Adapting and managing oneself (i.e. emotionally stable, adapting to change, good hygiene, and interpersonal skills)
There are some situations where an applicant will not satisfy the functional limitations as described above because they have a highly protected and supervised living arrangement or are undergoing intense therapy. In these situations, the applicant’s functional abilities appear better than they would otherwise appear in real-life situations. The government provides that even if the above criteria are not met, then an applicant can still receive benefits if the applicant has suffered from PTSD for at least 2 years, and the applicant has only a minimal capacity to adapt to changes or demands of a basic work environment.
Getting Disability for PTSD through a Vocational Expert
If an applicant’s symptoms and limitations associated with PTSD are severe enough to prevent work on a full-time basis, then a vocational expert can testify that such a person is not employable. For example, if an individual has three bad days a month where he or she would not leave the house due to a bout of anxiety, the vocational expert can testify that such an individual would not survive the probationary employment period due to excessive absences.
There are are so many ways that PTSD could impede a person’s ability to maintain full-time employment. Perhaps the individual is having trouble concentrating, sleeping, or dealing with supervisors. The key to this theory is that ALL of the applicant’s limitations should be well documented within the medical record. The more detailed the description, the better. If the more the medical record describes the frequency, intensity, and duration of the symptoms and limitations, the more convinced the judge will be
How do you treat PTSD?
PTSD is the kind of medical condition that is often misunderstood and it’s limiting effects are underestimated. The treatment can involve psychotherapy, medications, counseling, and counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy. Many times the medical physician will order a combination of one or more of these types of treatment. If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD and is not able to work full time, contact a Social Security disability lawyer at 210-340-8877 for a free consultation today. We have helped thousands of applicants obtain Social Security Disability and we know how to help.