February 27, 2015

Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits for PTSD

Many people with severe mental disorders are unable to work, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is one of many mental disorders Social Security might consider disabling.  In my practice, I have represented numerous clients suffering such severe PTSD symptoms that they are unable to work, even though they might be physically healthy enough to meet the demands of various types of jobs.  PTSD symptoms typically arise after a patient has experienced or observed a terrifying event.  Many factors contribute to these symptoms, and all patients experience PTSD differently.

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While symptoms vary in type and intensity, many that I see in my Indiana Social Security Disability practice include:

  • Recurrent memories of a traumatic event
  • Mentally experiencing a traumatic event over and over (flashbacks)
  • Nightmares about a traumatic event
  • Avoiding situations that are reminders of a traumatic event
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Anger outbursts
  • Hypervigilance
  • Self-destructive behavior

The Social Security Administration (SSA) addresses post-traumatic stress disorder in its Listing of Impairments.  PTSD is evaluated under Listing 12.06: Anxiety Related Disorders.  Social Security reviews your medical records for documentation of the types of symptoms you have, as well as the severity of your symptoms and their effect on your daily life.  In my experience it is important to have medical records, including progress notes from a qualified psychiatrist and therapist, showing you have been receiving regular treatment.  Unlike many physical conditions, where objective testing can be used to help prove the cause of your symptoms, mental health conditions must be proven using treatment records.

Many of my clients with PTSD have told me that one of their major hurdles in finding and maintaining employment is their inability to interact appropriately with other people.  They explain that they have difficulty leaving their homes and interacting even with their families and friends; they would be unable to work around co-workers and supervisors without experiencing severe symptoms.  This severe impairment of social functioning greatly limits the types of work a person with PTSD could perform without decompensating.  Combined with the inability to concentrate and stay on task that often accompanies anxiety disorders such as PTSD, these symptoms often cause work-related limitations that  completely prevent the full-time performance of any occupation in a competitive workforce.

Many of my clients suffer from a combination of physical and mental impairments.  Your mental condition in combination with symptoms from a back problem, diabetes, fibromyalgia, or any other qualifying disability may cause so many limitations that you lack the functional capacity to perform any kind of work.  It is important to tell the SSA and your attorney about all of the conditions you have that affect your ability to work.  Social Security must consider all of your impairments in combination in determining your ability to perform work; they cannot concentrate on one of your conditions and ignore others.  Your disabling condition(s) combined with your age, education, and prior work experience all impact the outcome of your Social Security disability appeal.

 

 

 

 

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