Can I Qualify for SSDI Benefits with PTSD?


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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious anxiety disorder that is typically triggered by an event that triggers feelings of extreme horror, powerlessness, or fear. While PTSD is often a condition associated with returning military service members, previous military service is not a prerequisite to the development or presence of the condition. In fact, one does not even need to experience a situation where a person intends to cause imminent harm or death, such as rape or an attempted murder, to develop PTSD. Experiencing a natural disaster, a severe medical event that effects the individual or a loved one, or even a significant financial or legal setback can all lead to the development of PTSD.

However, PTSD goes beyond a single jarring experience or a period of depression. With a PTSD condition there are actual physical changes to the body, brain, and their chemistry. While treatment is available for PTSD, recovery can be a difficult and taxing road. Unfortunately for some those coping with the severe impairments and limitations that can be caused by PTSD, work can become impossible. Luckily, the Social Security Disability Insurance program can provide covered workers with cash benefits so that they can focus on stabilizing their condition and then recovery.

What Are the Main Ways Someone with PTSD can get Approved for Benefits?

A person suffering from a severe PTSD condition must first be able to meet the SSDI program requirements before their medical condition and, if necessary, occupational and other factors can be considered. In short, those who wish to receive SSDI benefits must satisfy two main program requirements. First, because SSDI operates as an insurance program, the applicant must have worked for a sufficient number of years and, when applicable, must also have sufficient recent work. Aside from the work requirements intended to ensure that only those who have paid-in can draw on the fund, there is also a limit on income. This limit is known as substantial gainful income (SGA). To qualify an applicant who is blind cannot exceed a monthly average of $1820. Non-blind individuals cannot earn more than $1090 on a monthly basis.

Once the applicant has shown that he or she can satisfy the program requirements, the inquiry moves to the specific medical condition or conditions that are alleged by the applicant. The medical condition must be severe in that it causes significant limitations and that it is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. First, the Social Security Administration will determine whether the condition meets or equals a listed condition. If the condition cannot qualify alone by meeting or functionally equaling this listing, an applicant may still be approved for benefits through a medical-vocational allowance.

Can one Satisfy an SSDI Listing with PTSD?

As an anxiety-related disorder, a sufferer of PTSD musty be able to demonstrate the presence of the criteria listed in Listing 12.06. To satisfy the listing, two out of three sets of criteria must be satisfied. First,  at least one of the following must be present:

  • Generalized anxiety with at least one of the following: Vigilance and scanning, Apprehensive expectation, Motor tension, autonomic hyperactivity.
  • Recurrent severe panic attacks marked by unpredictable and rapid onset of fear, terror, or doom at least one  per a week.
  • Repeated compulsions or obsessions that result in stress.
  • Intrusive recollections of traumatic experiences.
  • A constant and irrational fear of a particular situation that gives rise to a desire to avoid that situation, activity, or object.

These medically documented finding must result in marked limitations in daily activities, social functioning, maintaining concentration, and episodes of decompensation. Alternatively, a complete inability to function outside of one’s home can also qualify an individual for benefits.

Qualifying for a Medical-Vocational Allowance with PTSD

Even if one’s PTSD condition does not quite rise to the level where it can qualify based on medical records alone, you may still qualify for benefits when your ability to perform current and past work is also considered. In this assessment the combined effects of all severe and non-severe impairments are considered and used to determine the level of activity that you can still continue to perform. This is known as the applicant’s residual functional capacity (RFC). When determining if an individual qualifies for benefits, the claims examiner will determine if the individual can perform the work they used to do. If not, the examiner will consider if there is alternate work available for the applicant to perform. If the applicant cannot perform past or alternate work, he or she will qualify for SSDI benefits.

Rely on our SSDI Experience

Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak has helped hard-working people who have had to put their lives on hold due to severe injuries, illnesses, and other impairments. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak at (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.

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