- PTSD and Social Security Disability Benefits
- February 6, 2015
- Law Firm: Myler Disability - American Fork Office
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone sees or experiences a traumatic event, such as warfare, sexual assault, fears of imminent death and violence. Its symptoms usually include recurring flashbacks, nightmares, distressing memories, anxiety and irritability.
One group with some of the highest rates of PTSD is U.S. veterans. It’s estimated that 25 percent of 9/11 veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and many more suffer without an official diagnosis.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a disability compensation program that these veterans are eligible for, but they may also be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
While both systems provide monthly compensation for disabled individuals, they are very different when it comes to determining whether an individual is disabled.
According to Katrina Eagle, a veterans law attorney in California, the VA uses its Schedule of Disability Ratings to determine whether an individual is disabled. This handbook lists a variety of medical conditions and breaks them down by severity percentages.
In the example Eagle gave in a Veterans Alliance article, a veteran evaluated and diagnosed with mild PTSD would receive a disability rating of 10 percent. If a doctor determines that a patient’s PTSD symptoms are moderate, the rating could be between 30 and 50 percent, and if the patient’s PTSD symptoms are severe, the rating would be 70 percent or higher.
The Social Security Administration does not use a rating system when determining whether you are disabled. You are either totally disabled or not eligible for compensation under its disability program.
When evaluating PTSD, the SSA will look to see whether your symptoms match its listing in the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security handbook. Known as the “Blue Book,” this guide lists a variety of conditions with corresponding symptoms considered severe enough to limit an individual’s ability to work.
In order to be approved for Social Security disability benefits, your PTSD must be severe enough that it will greatly inhibit your ability to work for one year or more.
While the two systems have very different procedures and requirements for determining disability, many veterans with severe PTSD disability ratings from the VA will qualify for disability benefits from the SSA.
Additionally, being diagnosed with a severe PTSD rating from the VA could help your Social Security disability claim, as one government agency has already examined your symptoms and determined that it greatly inhibits your ability to earn a living.
However, meeting the SSA’s definition of disabled won’t necessarily help your VA disability compensation claim, as the VA only takes service-connected injuries into account.
Getting approved for either disability program is not an easy process. It can take a lot of time and even multiple appeals to finally start earning the benefits you deserve. So, start the application process as soon as you can, try to remain patient and continue to visit your doctor regularly as you await a decision.