Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Security Disability

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Condition

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event. You can develop PTSD when you experience or witness an event that causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Experience of trauma does not always trigger this disorder; most people recover from trauma, given time and effective coping methods. Sometimes, however, the symptoms worsen and last a long time and sometimes they are so severe they interfere with your life. These cases are classified as PTSD.

PTSD has also been called post traumatic stress syndrome, battle fatigue, or shell shock. However, not only does it sometimes affect war survivors and those who have served in combat, it can also result from childhood abuse, rape, violence, or even a traumatic natural catastrophe, such as a hurricane.

PTSD also puts you at risk for problems such as:

Not only does PTSD affect the emotions and thoughts, it has also been linked to physical conditions such as:

PTSD is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation in which the psychologist or psychiatrist looks for the symptoms described below. You may also have a physical exam to check for any other medical problems.

Is PTSD a Disability?

PTSD can be considered a disability by the SSA if it impacts you ability to work. If your PTSD keeps you from working and meets the Blue Book listing, the SSA may consider you disabled.

If your symptoms of PTSD are so severe that you are unable to work, the SSA will consider you disabled and you will be able to get PTSD disability.

To get PTSD disability, you must have your PTSD to be considered a disability by the SSA. In order to do so, the first thing that you need to do is to meet the medical requirements outlined in the SSA’s Blue Book relating to PTSD disability. 

If you have PTSD, you may be able to get disabilityThe SSA’s Blue Book is the list of conditions that the SSA considerers to be disabilities and that qualifies for Social Security disability.

The listing that PTSD can be considered a disability for is under Trauma- and stressor-related disorders, which is in Listing 12.15 in the Blue Book for adults and Listing 112.15 in the Blue Book for children.

Within the sections of the Blue Book listing, applicants need to match sections A and B, or sections A and C in the listing for Trauma- and stressor-related disorders.

If you have PTSD and you can match one of those 2 sections, the SSA can consider you disabled, and you will be able to earn PTSD disability benefits.

For PTSD to be considered a disability by the SSA, you will need to meet the work requirements outlined by the SSA, as SSDI benefits are for those who at one point could work, but now can no longer because of a disability like PTSD.

Work credits are calculated by your age and how long you have worked. If you have paid taxes into Social Security, you can earn work credits. You can earn up to four work credits for each year that you work.

If you meet both the work and medical requirements outlined by the SSA for PTSD, you will be considered disabled and you may be able to start to earning PTSD disability benefits.

To speak with a local disability attorney about your PTSD case, fill out a free disability review today.

Can You Get Disability for PTSD?

You are able to have a successful disability claim for PTSD, but in order for you to get disability for PTSD it needs to be properly medically documented. In order for you to get PTSD disability (i.e., disability for PTSD), you need to have as much medical documentation as possible.

If you have PTSD, you may be able to get disabilityIn your application, the SSA will ask for your medical records, including hospital records and clinic notes from physicians, therapists, and counselors.

When you are applying for PTSD disability, you should ask your doctor to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation on your behalf.

The RFC evaluation is a form that your doctor fills out that evaluates the maximum you can do despite your disability, such as PTSD.

Your RFC evaluation is another example of medical documentation that helps show that you are unable to work full time because of your PTSD. When you have as much medical evidence as possible that shows you are unable to work because of PTSD, the more likely you are to get disability benefits for PTSD. To see how much you could get in PTSD disability, use our disability calculator to see how much you could be able to earn in PTSD disability benefits.


PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of a traumatic event. Sometimes, however, reaction can be delayed, sometimes for years. Symptoms can come and go and are often more likely to occur during times of stress in your life, or if something happens in your daily life to trigger a memory of the traumatic event.

Symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Avoiding activities
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having trouble with your memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability or difficulty in maintaining close relationships
  • Irritability or anger
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations

Treatment for post traumatic stress disorder is best when it takes place soon after the symptoms start. It can include one or more of the following: counseling and psychotherapy or medications (including anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and anti-psychotics). An alternative therapy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis

Post traumatic stress disorder cases are approved by SSA either by satisfying the criteria under Section 12.06 of the Blue Book, or by medical vocational allowance.

Most PTSD claims are approved as a medical vocational allowance. If SSA finds that your PTSD symptoms are not severe enough to meet the listing, it will award a medical allowance if the condition is severe enough to prevent you from working in a former job and severe enough to prevent you from working at another job that would pay you a “substantial and gainful” income.

Impairments that Qualify for PTSD Disability Benefits

Some disability claims for post traumatic stress disorder are approved by satisfying the Blue Book listing requirements under “Anxiety Disorders.” To do this, you must meet the requirements of Paragraph A and the requirements of either Paragraph B or Paragraph C.

In addition, you must meet the conditions of either paragraph B or C below:



  1. Your medical records must document at least one of the following findings:
    1. You must recall a traumatic experience; and/or
    2. You must have recurring obsessions or compulsions; and/or
    3. You must exhibit an irrational fear of a situation, object, or activity that is persistent enough that it causes a compulsion in you to avoid the situation, object, or activity; and/or
    4. You must have severe panic attacks, with symptoms of fear, intense apprehension, and feelings of impending doom and terror, on an average of at least once a week; and/or
    5. You must experience generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms: autonomic hyperactivity (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, cold hands, and dizziness), apprehensive expectation (anxiety, fear, worry, and persistent thoughts of potential misfortune), motor tension (fatigability, trembling, restlessness, and muscle tension), or vigilance and scanning behavior (feeling keyed up, increased startling, and impaired concentration).
  2. Your medical records must show at least two of the following findings:
    1. You are markedly restricted in your normal daily activities, and/or
    2. You have marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and/or
    3. You have marked difficulty in maintaining your concentration, persistence, or pace, and/or
    4. You have repeated episodes of decompensation (worsening psychiatric symptoms), that are of extended duration.
  3. Your medical records must prove that your PTSD results in your complete inability to function on your own outside your house.

When presenting your disability claim, your medical records should include at least one detailed description of the anxiety reaction you experience. That description should include the nature, duration, and frequency of the anxiety reaction and the effect(s) the anxiety reaction has on your ability to function. It should also include incidental factors that may cause or worsen the anxiety reaction. In addition, this description should indicate whether the description of the anxiety reaction matches your doctor's own observations.

Your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Disability Case

If you have PTSD, you may be able to get disabilityIf you are disabled because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is severe enough to prevent you from working, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

You can learn more by filling out a quick and free evaluation form regarding your case.

Working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security disability attorney or disability advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder disability (PTSD disability) case will have the highest possible chance of success.

Additional Resources

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