Disability for PTSD
Is PTSD a disability? Yes. Posttraumatic stress can happen after someone goes through a traumatic event such as combat, an assault, or a disaster. Most people have some stress reactions following trauma. But if the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Can you get disability for PTSD? The answer to this question is not a simple, straightforward “yes” or “no.” Technically, PTSD is not always regarded as a disability but can lead to partial or complete disability. Simply having PTSD does mean that you are considered disabled. Still, if the symptoms of PTSD are so severe that they affect your ability to function in society or the workplace, this would be considered a disability.
PTSD Disability Rating
For Social Security, you either meet the criteria for a PTSD disability or you don’t. Although a 100% rating for PTSD is possible, a 100% disability rating for any condition is difficult.
Disability for the U S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is different. When looking at the disability that occurs from PTSD, VA disability criteria allow for different levels of disability. The VA allows for 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100% disability, depending on how the person applying for disability meets their criteria.
You may be eligible for VA disability benefits, such as PTSD disability living allowance, if you have symptoms related to a traumatic event (the “stressor”) or your experience with the stressor is related to PTSD symptoms, and you meet all of these requirements:
All of these must be true:
- The stressor happened during your service, and
- You can’t function as well as you once could because of your symptoms, and
- A doctor has diagnosed you with PTSD
- Disability for PTSD
- PTSD Disability Rating
- Types of PTSD Disability Benefits
- Does PTSD Qualify for Disability?
- Is Complex PTSD a Disability?
- How To Get Social Security Disability Approved PTSD?
- General Requirements
- PTSD Treatment
VA considers any of these to be a traumatic event:
- You suffered a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, sexual violation, or
- You were threatened with injury, sexual assault, or death 
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Types of PTSD Disability Benefits
Is PTSD considered a disability? Yes. There are various types of disability PTSD benefits that someone with PTSD may be qualified for. These benefits generally come from one of three places:
- Social Security disability insurance
- VA disability benefits for veterans
- Private or employer-sponsored disability insurance
- Social security disability for PTSD will pay a monthly allowance for eligible individuals and meet all outlined requirements. This will include several factors, including the person’s ability to work in their normal profession, monthly income from working or investments, and the ability to perform other work.
- Social security disability for veterans with PTSD is generally the same process as it would be for non-military citizens. Still, veterans may also be eligible for benefits through the VA. VA disability benefits are only available to veterans and require disability from a condition acquired during or worsened by the veteran’s time in the armed forces. The VA has recognized several different levels of disability and will provide a disability rating for those with a PTSD-related disability. The monthly amount that is received is determined by the degree of disability.
- Private or employer-sponsored disability insurance can vary greatly depending on the respective policy. Policies may cover short-term or long-term disability claims. The definition of what is considered a disability, how someone qualifies, and how long the loss of income is covered varies, depending on the plan. You will have to contact the company that issued the policy to learn about the exact details of your plan and what it covers.
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Does PTSD Qualify for Disability?
Does PTSD count as a disability? Yes. Most people think of physical injuries and illnesses when they think of disabilities. However, mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are also disabilities. PTSD can prevent a person from returning to work or making their regular income. Many employees suffering from this disorder can’t perform their job-related duties or find work elsewhere.
Workers who have PTSD could pursue benefits through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance or Social Security disability. Is PTSD permanent disability? It depends on your condition and treatment. If you meet the specific requirements, you could collect the benefit payments you need to pay for medical treatment and supplement your lost wages.
Is PTSD a Disability?
Is PTSD disability? Yes. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers post-traumatic stress disorder a disability. It falls under the category of trauma and stressor-related disorders. According to the SSA, PTSD occurs after witnessing or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event. They can also result from learning about a close friend or family member’s experience. 
The SSA mentions common symptoms of trauma and stressor-related disorders, such as PTSD. They include:
- Distressing memories
- Avoidant behavior
- Diminished participation or interest in significant activities
- Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
- Persistent negative emotional state
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Exaggerated startle response
It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People with PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when not in danger.
While most but not all traumatized people experience short-term symptoms, the majority do not develop ongoing (chronic) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.
A doctor with experience helping people with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms include:
- Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. The symptoms can start from the person’s thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
Avoidance symptoms include:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.
Arousal and reactivity symptoms include:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
Arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic events. These symptoms can make the person feel stressed and angry. They may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
Cognition and mood symptoms include:
- Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Cognition and mood symptoms can begin or worsen after the traumatic event but are not due to injury or substance use. These symptoms can make the person feel alienated or detached from friends or family.
It is natural to have some of these symptoms for a few weeks after a dangerous event. When the symptoms last more than a month, seriously affect one’s ability to function, and are not due to substance use, medical illness, or anything except the event itself, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months. PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or one or more of the other anxiety disorders. 
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Is Complex PTSD a Disability?
Does complex PTSD qualify for disability? Yes. In 1988, Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggested that a new complex PTSD diagnosis was needed to describe long-term trauma symptoms.  Such complex PTSD symptoms include, according to her formulation:
- Behavioral difficulties (e.g. impulsivity, aggressiveness, sexual acting out, alcohol/drug misuse, and self-destructive behavior)
- Emotional difficulties (e.g. affect liability, rage, depression, and panic)
- Cognitive difficulties (e.g. dissociation and pathological changes in personal identity)
- Interpersonal difficulties (e.g. chaotic personal relationships)
- Somatization (resulting in many visits to medical practitioners)
Many traumatic events (e.g., car accidents, natural disasters, etc.) are of time-limited duration. However, in some cases, people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. Some have suggested that the current PTSD diagnosis does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma.
In addition to PTSD, chronic trauma is sometimes associated with other comorbidities, including substance use, mood disorders, and personality disorders. A thorough assessment using validated instruments is critical to creating a comprehensive and effective treatment plan.
An individual who experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of chronic victimization and total control by another may also experience difficulties in the following areas:
- Emotional regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, and explosive or inhibited anger.
- Consciousness. Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body (dissociation).
- Self-perception. It may include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
- Distorted perceptions of the perpetrator. Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship with the perpetrator, or being preoccupied with revenge.
- Relations with others. Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
- One’s system of meanings. It may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.
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How To Get Social Security Disability Approved PTSD?
The process of obtaining PTSD benefits varies based on the type of benefits being applied for. Winning a PTSD social security disability claim will be different than qualifying for a VA PTSD claim. The first step for any PTSD disability claim is to file a claim with the agency or insurance company that will provide the benefit.
Before filing, carefully examine the benefits provider’s requirements for filing a claim, and guarantee that you have all the paperwork and information required to file the claim. If you require assistance filing the claim, call the benefit provider or have someone you trust call them to see how they can accommodate you. Government agencies like the Social Security Administration or the VA will be able to assist with filing a claim if you are unable to do so.
A good strategy for guaranteeing that your claim is successful is to ask yourself, “Does my PTSD qualify for disability under the definitions given by this benefits provider?” The Social Security Administration and the VA provide precise requirements of what is necessary to qualify for a PTSD disability on their websites. Reviewing these requirements will help you to know what kind of information they will be looking for and what information can help your claim.
For instance, maybe you need a doctor to say that your PTSD affects your ability to partake in social activities. It will be much easier to obtain this documentation and include it in your initial filing than to follow up afterward. Having all the information and documentation that you need before filing can also help you get your claim filed more quickly and allow you to start receiving benefits sooner.
A common reason VA denied PTSD disability benefits or other denied claims is an error by the benefit provider. Other reasons include insufficient documentation, missing records, or eligibility issues.
If your claim has been denied, you will generally be able to appeal the denial. Pay careful attention to the appeal dates and guarantee that any paperwork is filed on time. If you pass the appeal dates, you may have to wait a period — normally a year — and refile. You should provide any additional paperwork and documentation required during the appeals process. Depending on the intricacy of your case and the reason for your appeal, you may desire to consider consulting a lawyer who can help you complete the appeals process. Many lawyers will provide a free consultation and give you some advice during these consultations that could help guide you in the appeals process.
General Requirements for Disability PTSD Programs
Social security disability requirements for PTSD can change yearly, but five requirements are currently used during the Social Security PTSD evaluation process. As of 2019, these five requirements include:
- You must be unable to earn over $1220 a month by working
- Your condition must be severe, limiting your ability to work for at least 12 months
- Your case of PTSD is considered disabling
- You must be unable to do the work you previously did
- You must be unable to do other types of work
You should be eligible for PTSD disability Social Security benefits if you meet these five requirements.
Applying for VA disability benefits will require you to file a claim with the VA. Before filing, review the PTSD disability rating system to see how the level of disability for PTSD is determined. By ensuring that you have the documentation to achieve the highest level of disability applicable to your case, you will be more likely to get a larger monthly benefit.
The process for filing for benefits through private or employer-sponsored insurance will differ based on the company that provided the insurance policy. Ask for a copy of your policy before filing and review the filing process, what is covered under your policy, and any supporting documentation that may be needed.
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Is PTSD a disability? Yes. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic, often debilitating mental health disorder that may develop after a traumatic life event, such as military combat, natural disaster, sexual assault, or unexpected loss of a loved one. Most of the U.S. population is exposed to a traumatic event during their lifetime, and shortly after exposure, many people experience some symptoms of PTSD. Although among most individuals, these symptoms resolve within several weeks, approximately 10%-20% of individuals exposed to trauma experience PTSD symptoms that persist and are associated with impairment. 
The diagnosis of what is now accepted as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has changed over the years as we have gained a better understanding of the stress response and its longer-term impact on the body and the brain. PTSD treatment works. Those who have gone through trauma can learn to feel safe in the world and cope with stress.
Deciding to get help and taking steps to start can be hard. There are several effective PTSD treatments. This means you have options. Many professionals provide evidence-based talk therapy and medication to people who go through trauma. Treatments with the strongest evidence should be the first line of treatment for PTSD whenever possible, considering patient preferences, values, and clinician expertise.
We Level Up FL provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All work as a team, providing PTSD Treatment for successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
Search “Is PTSD A Disability?” & Other Resources
 VA disability compensation for PTSD – Veterans Affairs https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/ptsd/#:~:text=You%20may%20be%20eligible%20for,meet%20all%20of%20these%20requirements.
 Disability Evaluation Under Social Security – https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_00B11
 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
 Complex PTSD – https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp
 Miao XR, Chen QB, Wei K, Tao KM, Lu ZJ. Is PTSD a Disability? Posttraumatic stress disorder: from diagnosis to prevention. Mil Med Res. 2018 Sep 28;5(1):32. DOI: 10.1186/s40779-018-0179-0. PMID: 30261912; PMCID: PMC6161419. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6161419/