September 3, 2014

Social Security Disability Claims Arising from PTSD

Social Security recognizes that PTSD can result in symptoms that are so intrusive that you would not be able to perform even a simple, entry-level job reliably.  Remember – Social Security defines disability as your inability to perform substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable condition that has lasted or is expected to last 12 consecutive months or result in death.

PTSD symptoms generally last far longer than 12 months and, again, if these symptoms interfere with your capacity to work, then you have a good argument for disability.

Common Symptoms of PTSD that Case Problems at a Job

If you experience PTSD symptoms, you know how intrusive and distracting this condition can be.   Social Security uses certain phrases to describe what you may be experiencing.  Here are some terms that may be applicable in your PTSD disability case:

  • marked interference with attention and concentration
  • marked limitations in capacity to perform tasks at a workmanlike pace
  • inability to interact with the general public, co-workers, or supervisors
  • inability to get through a workday without interference from psychologically based symptoms
  • frequent crying spells

Experienced Social Security disability lawyers will incorporate terms like these into checklists that you can take to your doctor for the doctor to fill out.   If your treating psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist can “translate” his/her findings into specific work limitations using terms like those above, you chance at winning increases because you will now be “speaking SSA’s language.”

VA Treatment Records Often Not Helpful

Not surprisingly, many former soldiers and civilian support who worked in combat zones experience symptoms of PTSD.   Those who seek treatment at VA Hospitals know that most of these centers are understaffed and that VA recordkeeping is not especially good.   Further VA doctors and nurses are often encouraged to downplay PTSD diagnoses because of concerns about costs arising from VA disability.

Whenever possible it is advisable to seek private counseling or mental health treatment in addition to or instead of VA treatment, if you are pursuing a Social Security disability claim.   This does not mean that VA records are never helpful, but it is generally not a good idea to rely solely on VA treatment to support a Social Security disability claim.