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Receiving Disability Benefits for PTSD

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ptsd spelled out in block lettersAlthough mostly associated with combat and military veterans, PTSD can affect anyone, including children. Unfortunately, proving the psychological “significance” that an event had on you can be tough since everyone perceives and handles stress differently. Therefore, the SSA disability board will only consider approval of PTSD claims if they’re convinced the traumatic event was uncommon, frightful, or traumatizing enough to cause long-term stress. Once these requirements are met, you’ll then need to prove how your symptoms affect your ability to work.

PTSD Symptoms Can Be Debilitating

People experience PTSD in different ways. Some are able to cope with the requirements of everyday life and others are not. When symptoms get out of control, you may be able to collect disability benefits. Common disabling symptoms of PTSD include ongoing:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Social anxiety
  • Anger
  • Impaired focus
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Uncontrollable fatigue or poor sleep

Triggers that can cause symptoms to arise include anything sensory—sights, sounds, smells—that reminds you of the initial traumatic event.   

Proving the Validity of Your Claim

There are two ways to prove that your PTSD condition warrants disability consideration:

  1. Convince the SSA that your symptoms are severe enough to warrant consideration. The SSA has its own listings of qualifying symptoms it associates with anxiety and PTSD. You must be able to show that your symptoms are similar enough to the SSA’s outlined symptoms (12.06)
  2. Your symptoms are severe enough to keep you from working. You must be able to prove that your functional capacity has been irrevocably damaged as a direct result of your PTSD. Once verified, you’ll be able to prove that your condition prohibits you from being a reliable employee and thus unable to support yourself without government aid.

Importance of Keeping a Record

Your claim will be scrutinized to ensure that your condition is not only severe but also debilitating enough to prohibit you from supporting yourself. Detailed records of the progression of your condition as well as statements from employers and co-workers validating the effects of the condition are important pieces of evidence for your claim. Therefore, it’s essential that you and your attorney secure well-documented and precise records that include:

  • Date (if single incident) or timeframe (if multiple or long-term trauma) of the original traumatic event. What is the catalyst for your PTSD? What happened to you that caused such anxiety?
  • Dates and results of doctor appointments. What symptoms are documented? What kind of treatment have you received (medication, therapy)?
  • Dates and effects of workplace episodes. Incidents where you tried to work but symptoms caused you to have to leave, be fired, or quit.
  • Dates and reasons for missed days of work. When absences are related to your condition, you should document this.
  • Coworker and employer accounts of how you act or acted at work. Were your symptoms gradual or did they escalate quickly? Were you unable to perform your duties? Were others forced to pick up your slack?
  • Identifiable triggers. What do you think causes your episodes?
  • Frequency of episodes. How often do you experience episodes? Once a month? Once a week? Multiple times a week? *Claims where symptoms arise more than twice a week are considered severe enough to warrant disability. Episodes that are more inconsistent may cause your claim to be questioned. However, this does not mean that you should exaggerate your episodes—stay truthful and let your attorney argue your case.

Contact our office today to see how John L. Keefe can help you build or rebuild a strong disability claim that will adequately convince the SSA board that you not only have PTSD but that it has affected your ability to sustain gainful employment. You’ve suffered enough, allow us to provide you with the resources, guidance, and support you need to pursue a successful disability claim.

Category: I Was Denied

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law

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