January 18, 2020

Case Strategies

If you hope to win your PTSD disability claim, you need to present evidence to the Social Security Administration showing that your symptoms and/or medication side effects leave you without the capacity to perform the duties of a simple, entry level job.

PTSD claims have become more difficult to win because this condition is an “invisible illness” – no MRI or CT scan can show conclusively that you are affected.  Further, disability judges see PTSD claims frequently:

  • military veterans show symptoms of PTSD following combat duty
  • military veterans (often female) develop PTSD following sexual assault by superiors in the armed services
  • men and women develop PTSD due to childhood sexual or physical abuse (often the symptoms appear after years or even decades)
  • men and women develop PTSD after witnessing violence or suffering from the loss of a loved one

Because judges see PTSD claims frequently, you need a solid medical record and support from a treating mental health professional to improve your chances at winning.

Factors Common to Successful Cases

Because many people experience symptoms associated with PTSD, disability judges are reluctant to award disability unless your medical record shows a severe level of impairment.  When I am evaluating a claim, I look for the following:

  • record of on-going, less-than-successful treatment
  • one or more in-patient hospitalizations
  • extremes of behavior (violent outbursts, suicide attempts, crying spells)
  • evidence of traumatic event- could be military service, childhood physical or sexual abuse
  • support from a treating mental health professional in the form of a functional capacity evaluation or narrative report
In addition, I have had better success with claimants who are age 50 or older.  Disability judges are under a great deal of pressure to limit approvals and I have noticed a definite preference for older claimants.
Further, I have had less success when the only records I have are from the Veterans Administration.  VA records tend to be voluminous and repetitive and disability judges tend to discount the conclusions of VA psychologists.  In that same vein, a VA finding of 100% service connected disability is not binding on Social Security and many SSD judges feel that the VA is too liberal in awarding 100% disability ratings.
If your treatment is only with the VA, I would suggest that you supplement that treatment with visits to a private psychologist so that your attorney can ask for a functional capacity evaluation from that private mental health provider.

Choose a Winning Strategy

There are several strategies that attorneys use to prove that you are disabled according to Social Security’s standards.  These include 1) The Listing Strategy, and 2) The Functional Capacity Strategy.   You can read about each of these strategies on this web site.  A third “theory of disability” called the Grid Rule strategy does not apply in PTSD claims because you must have a physical impairment to use the grid rules.  If your case involves both physical and mental limitations, the grid rules could apply – see my website called GridRules.net for more.

It is important to keep in mind that the strategies can often be combined, meaning that you can present to Social Security more than one argument as to why you are disabled.  To understand how this works, however, you have to understand how each individual strategy works.  Please visit the individual case strategy pages for details on effective case strategies for winning a disability claim based on PTSD.