Social Security Disability for Veterans with PTSD

Veterans may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, due to their military service. While you may be aware of VA benefits, some veterans with PTSD may also be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. If you or a loved one are a veteran with PTSD or suspect you have PTSD, reach out to Veterans Guide. Our advocates can determine your eligibility for Social Security Disability for veterans with PTSD. If you are eligible, you may receive SSDI monthly benefits. 

Key Takeaways
  • SSDI eligibility for PTSD requires medical documentation proving the disability significantly impairs the ability to work.
  • The application process may involve detailed records, including treatment history and a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment.
  • Approval might grant monthly benefits and potentially other support services tailored for mental health conditions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition triggered by witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event, such as a death or severe injury. Veterans are more likely to develop PTSD than civilians, especially if they engage in military combat.

Unfortunately, many veterans with PTSD often have difficulty returning to work. They may experience anxiety or panic in situations reminding them of the event that triggered their condition. Fortunately, they may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, or SSDI, a monthly benefit for disabled people. Contact Veterans Guide to see whether you are eligible for Social Security Disability for PTSD.

Can Veterans Get Social Security Disability for PTSD?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) accepts PTSD as an eligible condition for SSDI benefits. To qualify for benefits, disabled veterans must meet the following requirements:

Does Receiving SSDI for PTSD Affect VA Disability Benefits?

SSDI for PTSD does not necessarily affect VA disability benefits. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the SSA are separate organizations with their own guidelines and processes. VA claims are made for conditions connected to military service, while SSDI claims are available to veterans and civilians who cannot maintain gainful employment. As such, veterans with VA disability benefits can apply for SSDI if they meet the SSDI requirements.

How Does the SSA Evaluate PTSD?

PTSD is a qualifying condition under the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, Section 12.15: Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.

To ensure you qualify for SSDI for PTSD, the Social Security Administration will ask five questions:

  1. Are you working? If you are, you must earn less than a certain monthly amount that changes yearly. In 2024, statutorily blind individuals can earn a maximum of $2,590 per month to be eligible for SSDI benefits, and non-blind individuals can earn a maximum of $1,550 per month.
  2. Is your condition “severe?” In other words, has your condition affected your life for at least 12 months and significantly limits your ability to walk, lift, stand, sit, or remember things?
  3. Is your condition on the SSA’s list of disabling conditions, and is it considered severe enough to prevent you from having substantial gainful employment?
  4. Can you work like you did before you had PTSD? If the answer is no, you will have a higher chance of receiving SSDI.
  5. Can you do any other kind of work? To answer this question, the SSA will look at your medical condition, education, age, transferable skills, and work experience. 

How Much SSDI Compensation Do You Receive for PTSD?

Unlike the VA, the SSA does not provide disability benefits based on percentage ratings. Instead, it adopts an all-or-nothing approach.

In November 2023, the average disability insurance benefit was $1,352.25 a month. This amount will likely increase due to the annual cost-of-living adjustment, which is 3.2% for 2024 and  adjusts benefits to counter the effects of inflation.

Is My Family Eligible for SSDI Benefits?

As a veteran with PTSD, certain family members may qualify for benefits:

What Evidence Do I Need to File an SSDI Claim for PTSD?

To succeed in an SSDI claim for PTSD, you must provide medical proof of the condition. This evidence is similar to VA claim evidence and may include medical records, job history, military service records, and military medical records. 

Include as much information about your condition as possible, including a detailed description of how PTSD affects your daily life. Be sure to describe the limits the condition places on you, such as panic attacks triggered by noises or smells. You should also describe the onset of recent PTSD episodes, including their durations and frequencies. Your medical records should include the following: 

How to Apply for SSDI for PTSD

If you believe you qualify for Social Security Disability for veterans with PTSD, follow these steps to apply for SSDI:

  1. Gather documentation about your diagnosis and prognosis, treatment, and medication. You should also include information about your family, military service, and job history.
  2. Submit your application online, by calling 1-800-772-1213, or in person at a local Social Security office.
  3. Wait for a response from the SSA. The SSA will verify your work experience and that you have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. 
  4. Wait for your state to make a decision. The SSA will forward your application to your state’s Disability Determination Services office, which will issue a decision on your SSDI benefits application.

Common Issues With Social Security PTSD Claims

Unfortunately, PTSD SSDI claims are not always approved. Here are some common issues with Social Security PTSD claims:

The majority of SSDI applications are unsuccessful, with 62 percent of applications denied in 2022. If the SSA denies your initial SSDI claim, you have 60 days to appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeal you can use. If you are denied at one stage, you can try the next. 

  1. Reconsideration: Your application will be returned to the state office and reviewed by a different group of reviewers. 
  2. Administrative law judge review: A judge will review your application and hold a hearing, questioning you, experts, and witnesses about your disability and ability to work.
  3. Appeals Council hearing: The council will review the judge’s decision.
  4. Federal court appeal: This involves appealing the council’s decision to federal court.

PTSD Under SSA’s Medical Vocational Allowance

Even if you don’t meet the requirements of the SSA’s listing for PTSD, you may be eligible for SSDI benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. To qualify, you must demonstrate a limited residual functional capacity, meaning the level of activity you can still perform with your PTSD. 

The SSA will then consider your residual functional capacity and determine both of the following:

If the SSA determines that you cannot do either, you will be approved for SSDI benefits under a medical-vocational allowance.

Will Working With a Lawyer Help?

Yes, working with an experienced disability lawyer can increase your chance of securing Social Security Disability for veterans with PTSD. The right SSDI lawyer has experience with disability law and knowledge of the SSA’s rules and regulations. They will collect the necessary evidence to build your case. They can also advocate for you during hearings and the appeals process. 

To find an experienced lawyer for your Social Security Disability for PTSD case, contact Veterans Guide. 

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