Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an unfortunate but common affliction among America’s military personnel. This is an anxiety-related mental health disorder resulting from experiencing or witnessing firsthand a life-threatening or extraordinarily dangerous event, such as a combat death, natural disaster, sexual assault, terrorist attack, or fatal accident.
PTSD can prevent a veteran from returning to normal life after his or her service has concluded. It can harm social and family relationships and inhibit a veteran’s ability to work. In addition to its negative effects on mental wellbeing, research has shown that PTSD can contribute to other conditions affecting veterans’ physical health later in life, such as cardiovascular or autoimmune disorders.
In some cases, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available for veterans with PTSD. If you are a military veteran suffering from PTSD, you may qualify.
What is PTSD?
There are several behavioral or psychological symptoms associated with PTSD, including:
- Heightened agitation;
- Hostility to friends and family;
- Social isolation;
- Self-destructive behavior;
- Insomnia or persistent nightmares or flashbacks;
- Loss of interest in normal activities; and
- Suicidal thoughts.
Treatment for PTSD can involve therapy, medication or a combination thereof. It cannot always be successfully treated, and PTSD often is severe enough to prevent a veteran from holding jobs or performing tasks he or she was capable of before experiencing a life-changing trauma.
Are SSD benefits available for veterans with PTSD?
If you are suffering from PTSD, you will want to know how you can receive compensation for your suffering that accounts for your service. Unfortunately, this can be a complicated process involving different government agencies.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program intended to supplement the income of citizens who are physically incapable of normal employment. There are also benefits for veterans suffering from PTSD that are available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
How can veterans qualify for SSDI benefits?
Merely demonstrating that you suffer from PTSD is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a five-step process to decide if an applicant suffering from PTSD qualifies for disability benefits.
The SSA must determine that a veteran’s income is below the threshold that disqualifies an applicant from being eligible for benefits. Currently, only applicants earning less than $1,170 per month can qualify for SSDI.
Evaluating the Severity of the PTSD
The PTSD must be severe enough to inhibit the veteran from performing normal work tasks, such as typical physical activity, basic sensory functions (seeing, hearing, speaking), comprehending instructions, and making ordinary changes.
The veteran must provide documentation of the anxiety, panic attacks, or other effects of his or her PTSD, furnished by a physician, psychiatrist, or other credible person who has witnessed the effects of the disorder. The records should include a detailed description of a normal episode, noting how long the episodes usually last and how often they occur. The veteran can qualify for benefits if various criteria are met. These records must include the physician’s or psychiatrist’s assessment of how the PTSD affects the patient’s ability to work.
It is important to remember that the SSA will not reach out to a veteran’s physician during the application process, so you must be proactive in gathering this documentation.
Looking at Work Ability
The SSA will explore the veterans’ ability to perform previous work. If it determines the veteran still can still do this, it will not approve benefits.
Assessing Current State
The SSA will assess the veteran’s age, health, mental condition, and general aptitude to determine if there is any other work he or she can perform.
Can veterans qualify for other benefits with PTSD?
Another way to get approved for SSD benefits is to receive a medical-vocational allowance (MVA), which is actually more common. A veteran can obtain an MVA if he or she has been denied benefits during any step of the process above, but can demonstrate a limited Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). An individual’s RFC is what he or she can still do within the limitations imposed by PTSD.
It is possible for a veteran to qualify for both VA benefits and SSD benefits. Eligibility and payment amounts are determined differently by each agency, but since VA benefits are income-based, they can disqualify a veteran from receiving SSD benefits. The relationship between the two agencies and types of benefits they provide can be confusing. An experienced attorney can help navigate the complicated application process and secure the appropriate benefits for the sacrifices a veteran has made.
How long will it take to receive SSD benefits for veterans with PTSD?
It can take several months to a year for benefits to kick in once an application is submitted. A veteran may receive a lump-sum retroactive payment for the time between the onset of PTSD and the receipt of benefits, up to one year. Any veteran who served on or after Oct. 1, 2001, is eligible to have his or her application expedited. This is supposed to happen automatically, but an applicant may need to inform the SSA of his or her eligibility.
Another factor in the SSDI application might be a disability ruling by the VA. If the VA has determined that you suffer a “100% permanent and total” (P&T) disability as a result of your PTSD, this might also expedite the process. However, a P&T rating does not guarantee you will be approved for SSDI benefits.
Attorneys from the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC have experience helping disabled veterans across the nation secure the benefits they deserve. If you suffer from PTSD as a result of combat experiences or other traumas related to your military service, you deserve to be compensated. Call 866-628-8179 today to arrange a consultation.