Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic experiences and terrifying events. Symptoms include feelings of horror and powerlessness, recurring and unwanted memories of the event(s), upsetting dreams and nightmares, and severe emotional distress. One of the leading causes of PTSD is military service, but other traumatic events involving imminent harm and death are potential causes. PTSD can create emotional and physical changes to the body that can limit a person’s ability to perform their regular work duties. Fortunately, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program allows workers who are suffering from PTSD to get benefits so they can focus on their mental and physical health.
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits is a difficult task for those suffering from an obvious impairment. When your condition is challenging to diagnose and demonstrate, such as PTSD, the path to a successful disability claim becomes murkier. You need an experienced law firm that understands the nuances and pitfalls associated with applying for benefits with such a condition.
For more information about getting disability for PTSD in Arkansas, contact our Fayetteville, AR disability lawyers. Our team of lawyers and staff have been assisting Arkansas residents in obtaining the Social Security Disability benefits they and their families need for decades. Our office will help you avoid those common mistakes and build a compelling body of medical evidence to support your claim. We can also help you if your claim is denied and you need to file an appeal. Call (479) 316-0438 to set up a consultation to review your claim.
How to Get Approved for Disability Benefits with PTSD in Arkansas
A person who has symptoms of PTSD can qualify for disability benefits in Arkansas if they meet the two main program requirements. One requirement is that applicants must have worked for a sufficient number of years and, when applicable, must have worked recently. Another requirement for qualifying for disability benefits in Arkansas with PTSD is meeting the income limit. This income limit is known as the substantial gainful income, also known as SGA. The income limit for SSDI benefits is $1,090 monthly. Applicants who make more than $1,090 per month will not be able to receive SSDI benefits.
If an applicant meets the program requirements, they will have to show that their condition is severe and keeps them from working. The applicant’s medical condition must be critical enough to cause significant limitations, and it must either last for at least twelve more months or result in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether a condition is severe enough if it meets a set of criteria. If an applicant’s condition does not meet the criteria included in the SSA’s listing, they might still receive disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance.
A disability applicant must prove that their condition meets the SSA criteria to qualify for disability benefits. At least one of the following symptoms must be present for someone to qualify for disability benefits: generalized anxiety with either vigilance or scanning, apprehensive expectation, autonomic hyperactivity, or motor tension; recurrent panic attacks marked by a rapid and unpredictable onset of fear, terror, or doom at least once per week; repeated convulsions or obsessions resulting in stress; intrusive recollections of traumatic experiences; constant and irrational fear of a particular situation that leads the sufferer to avoid that situation, object, or activity. The effects of PTSD must result in marked limitations on daily activities, the ability to function socially, the ability to maintain concentration, or a complete inability to function outside of the home for the applicant to qualify for benefits.
Social Security Disability Requirements for PTSD in Arkansas
As an anxiety-related disorder, someone with PTSD must be able to demonstrate that their condition meets the criteria listed in section 12.15 of the SSA’s disability listings, which covers trauma-related and stressor-related disorders.
Many of these listed criteria might be similar to the kinds of symptoms that a mental health professional would look for to diagnose PTSD according to the DSM-V, the main diagnostic handbook used in the U.S. However, many of the symptoms the SSA looks for are more severe than the requirements for the basic diagnosis.
While nearly all people with PTSD could consider their condition a “disability,” their condition might not be severe enough to interfere with their ability to work or to support themselves. SSDI is designed to cover people who cannot work, so the listing is written so that only the most severe cases of PTSD are covered with disability benefits.
The SSA’s Medical Definition of PTSD
Under this listing, people applying for SSDI with PTSD must have medical documentation that proves they meet all of the following criteria:
- Exposure to harm or death (i.e., some traumatic event that started the PTSD)
- Intrusive memories, dreams, flashbacks, or other recurrences of the traumatic event
- Avoidance of triggers
- The condition has an effect on mood and behavior
- Sensitivity and increase in reactivity (e.g., startling easily)
These form the basic symptoms of PTSD, but having symptoms is not enough to get a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, and it is not enough for disability. Because of this, you must meet additional criteria to show that your condition is severe and warrants disability benefits.
These additional criteria consist of an “extreme limitation” in at least one of the following factors or a “marked limitation” in at least two of the following areas:
- Trouble remembering, understanding, or applying information
- Trouble interacting with others
- Difficulty concentrating or keeping pace
- Difficulty adapting or managing yourself
These kinds of issues show that the condition is severe enough that it will have an effect on your ability to work and care for yourself. If you cannot show that you meet these criteria, the SSA should alternatively accept proof that your condition is medically documented as “serious and persistent.” This must come with evidence that you have been helped by treatment or institutionalization, but that you still cannot adjust to new demands outside your everyday activities.
Qualifying for a Medical-Vocational Allowance with PTSD in Arkansas
It is still possible to get Social Security benefits if your condition does not fully meet the medical requirements set by the Social Security Administration. Many people with severe PTSD might not have the money to see a doctor and get the medical documentation they need to prove their condition. Other criteria might also go unmet if they can’t seek treatment or if they don’t meet the “extreme limitation” or “marked limitation” criteria the SSA uses. For these people, a medical-vocational allowance might be available.
To get benefits through a medical-vocational allowance, an applicant’s severe and non-severe impairments are taken into account to assess their ability to continue to work. This ability level is known as the “residual functional capacity,” or RFC. If an applicant has PTSD but does not strictly meet the criteria set by the Social Security Administration, the applicant may still be able to receive SSDI benefits if their condition keeps them from doing their job. In most cases, if the condition is at least as severe as another condition listed in the SSA’s listing of disabilities, you can still get benefits even if you do not meet the explicit standards for any particular listing. Speak with an experienced Springdale, AR Social Security disability attorney to learn more about applying for a medical-vocational allowance today.
What Symptoms of PTSD Qualify for Disability Benefits in Arkansas?
PTSD is a medical condition that affects certain people to the point where their ability to work is impacted. Not being able to work is a key component in qualifying for SSDI or SSI. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for a benefits claimant to prove that they are suffering from symptoms of PTSD.
When applying for benefits, our Arkansas Social Security Disability lawyers will look to establish symptoms that coincide with the SSA’s Blue Book listing requirements.
A common symptom of PTSD is traumatic memories and flashbacks. These occurrences are often so real that they interfere with a person’s ability to function normally. When vivid memories cause you to lose sleep or avoid contact with the outside world, they could be considered a debilitating symptom of PTSD.
PTSD could impact how you interact and perceive the world around you, especially when engaging with others. Someone suffering from PTSD often struggles with personal relationships or actively avoids situations because it might trigger a vivid memory or emotional response. This tends to lead to problems with concentration and short-term memory.
Increased Emotional Responses and Anxiety
PTSD often affects a person’s emotional reactions to ordinary events. For example, it is not uncommon for a person with PTSD to become unreasonably angry at a small transgression or mistake. This could make working with other people difficult or impossible. In some cases, someone suffering from this condition might see and hear things that do not exist.
What is Remaining Functional Capacity (RFC)?
RFC refers to the maximum a person with a medical impairment could do despite the limitations imposed by their condition. The SSA typically assesses RFC on a case-by-case basis and only after all medical evidence and documentation have been examined. By evaluating your medical records, the SSA will make a determination of whether your limitations are severe enough to warrant disability benefits. In many cases, having your own treating physician complete your RFC will help your case. Talk with our Arkansas disability lawyers about what medical evidence is necessary to increase your chances of being approved for benefits.
What is “Residual Functional Capacity” (RFC) in PTSD?
When applying for disability benefits with PTSD, it is critical that you compile a body of medical evidence to support your claim. A residual functional capacity report can be a vital piece of that evidence.
Having your physician complete an RFC form will provide the SSA framework to view your disability. The RFC form is a document that records your symptoms in relation to how their impact or impair your ability to perform the necessary task associated with your job duties. This information could be advantageous during the application process.
Without an RFC form, the Social Security Administration will come to their own conclusions regarding who your PTSD limits you based on the other medical evidence you provided. Unfortunately, without an RFC to link your symptoms to your working ability, your claim will likely be denied.
What if I Can Perform Work?
It is possible to be able to perform some measure of work and still qualify for SSDI. As discussed above, you are permitted to work – just not engage in substantial gainful activity. If your impairment permits you to work limited hours at a low-paying job, you might be able to work part-time and still retain your disability benefits. However, it is important to speak with an experienced Arkansas disability lawyer before accepting a different position. If your hours are based on the company’s needs and not your inability to work longer, your benefits could be terminated.
What is the Income Limit for Disability Benefits in Arkansas?
To qualify for disability benefits in Arkansas for PTSD, or any other medical impairment, you must demonstrate to the SSA that your condition severely impacts your ability to work. For purposes of disability benefits, the SSA is concerned about whether or not you can engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA).
If you are applying for SSDI, SGA for 2022 is $1,350 a month for non-blind individuals. For blind people, SGA is $2,260 a month. This means that if your monthly income exceeds SGA, your disability claim will be denied.
For people applying for SSI, SGA does not come into play. However, because SSI is a needs-based program, there are severe limitations on both income and resources. If an individual earns more than $841 a month in 2022, their benefits will be reduced or terminated. For couples, the monthly amount is $1,261. Furthermore, an individual’s assets and resources, minus some exceptions, cannot exceed $2,000. This total increases to $3,000 if the applicants are a couple. To learn more about the financial and income requirements, contact our Fort Smith disability lawyers.
Types of Disability Benefits in Arkansas for Victims of PTSD
If your PTSD meets the criteria set by the Social Security Administration, you will be eligible to receive ongoing benefits. Since PTSD and other disabilities can prevent those suffering from it from being able to work to be able to pay for rent, groceries, and other necessities, disability payments are meant to replace the lost income through the SSDI program.
Benefits to Cover Family Members
People with PTSD who qualify for disability benefits in Arkansas can get additional benefits for any minor children in their care, their spouse, and a divorced spouse. These benefits may be an additional 50% to 80% of your total benefits. Note that children and young adults with disabilities may qualify for benefits on their parent’s record, but must meet slightly different medical definitions of severity to qualify. Young adults can claim SSDI benefits through their parents’ work record as soon as they turn 22. To learn more about which disability benefits you qualify for, speak with a disability lawyer about whether you can disability benefits for children with PTSD in Arkansas today.
One of the most common issues for people receiving disability benefits under the SSDI program is that they cannot work or receive outside income while on disability. As part of your application process, you will need to prove that your disability is so severe that you cannot work to support yourself. If the applicant can perform “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), then the SSA does not see them as “disabled.” This means that if you can work and make more than $1,260 per month (the SGA limit for non-blind applicants in 2020), then the SSA will cut off your benefits. For blind applicants in 2020, that limit is $2,110. For non-blind applicants in 2021, the SGA limit is $1,310, and for blind applicants, it is $2,190.
If you do not have a work history that allows you to claim benefits under SSDI, you could be entitled to claim SSI benefits instead. The “Supplemental Security Income” program is designed to be a need-based program that supports disabled Americans across the country, whether they have a history of working and paying Social Security taxes or not.
In many cases, you might apply to both SSDI and SSI. SSDI has a 5-month waiting period during which you cannot receive benefits. SSI, however, does not have a waiting period, so many people apply to SSI to get benefits during the waiting period. Then, when their SSDI benefits kick in, they drop the SSI coverage. Talk to a Johnson, AR disability lawyer about which program to apply to and what benefits you should be entitled to.
Why Disability Benefits Might be Terminated in Arkansas for PTSD Applicants
Social Security disability benefits last only as long as your condition keeps you from being able to work. It is possible to receive Social Security benefits for the rest of your life, as long as your condition is severe enough. After you have received Social Security benefits for a while, the Social Security Administration may need additional evidence to confirm you are still disabled, and they might ask you to seek additional medical testing, to fill out forms, or to try going back to work for a bit.
Income and Trial Work Period Issues
The SSA may test your ability to go back to work during a “trial work period.” A trial work period can be a win-win because it allows you to earn additional income beyond your usual disability limitations by working for a limited period. Recall that in 2020, non-blind people on disability cannot make more than $1,260 per month outside of their disability benefits or else they risk losing their benefits. Receiving income above that level will trigger a trial work period. Disability beneficiaries typically get 9 months they can use toward a trial work period, and if they make “too much” money in a 10th month, their benefits will be terminated.
If you demonstrate that you can perform your work tasks without issue from your disability, your benefits may also be terminated and the SSA will essentially require you to return to the workforce. Alternatively, the SSA might see that your limitations are still too severe to work, and you could be permitted to stay on disability.
Additional Proof and Paperwork Requirements
If at any point the SSA asks for additional information or proof of disability from you, you need to respond to their requests quickly. Many people have their disability terminated every year not because they “got better,” but because the SSA is unable to determine whether they have a disability or not. If you do not respond to the SSA’s requests for information, they might claim that they cannot determine whether you are still disabled, and they might terminate your benefits because of it. In some cases, you may need to work with a lawyer or get medical help to fill out the documents, which could take more time.
Work with a lawyer to get the extensions you need and to fill out any necessary paperwork to avoid having your benefits terminated. Get in touch with our Fayetteville, AR termination of benefits lawyer immediately if your benefits have been terminated or if your application for disability benefits was denied in Arkansas.
Call Our Fayetteville Disability Lawyer for PTSD Today
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that can impact an employee’s ability to perform their job and work to support themselves and their family. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, know that you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Our law office is here to help you apply for benefits or appeal a claim that was denied. Working with the Social Security Administration is not easy and having an experienced Fayetteville, AR disability lawyer at your side will increase your chances of obtaining the benefits you deserve. Call (479) 316-0438 to discuss your specific condition today.