How Severe Does My PTSD Have To Be To Get Disability Benefits?

If you struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to such an extent that it interferes with your ability to work and provide for yourself, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability (SSD) benefits through the U.S Social Security Administration (SSA). Whether you qualify to receive SSD will depend on the severity of your condition.

This guide will help you better understand whether you are eligible for disability benefits based on the severity of your PTSD. If you do plan on submitting an application, strongly consider reviewing your case with an attorney for more information.

Blue Book Listing For PTSD

When determining whether an applicant qualifies for disability benefits, disability reviewers will turn to the SSA’s Blue Book. This resource describes both the conditions and the condition-specific criteria that disability applicants must meet in order for them to be eligible for SSD.

The Blue Book does not have a specific listing for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) under its Mental Disorders Section. However, an individual with PTSD may still be eligible for disability benefits if (1) their symptoms meet the criteria for another mental disorder listing in the Blue Book or (2) if they can show that their symptoms are severe enough to prevent them from performing Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).

PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event or series of events, such as military combat, sexual assault, or natural disasters. The symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Intrusive thoughts/memories
  • Avoidance of triggers/reminders
  • Negative changes in mood, such as feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
  • Hyperarousal, including increased vigilance, irritability, and difficulty sleeping

Proving Your PTSD Is Severe Enough for SSD

To qualify for disability benefits based on PTSD, an individual must provide medical evidence showing that their symptoms meet the criteria for another mental disorder listing in the SSA’s Blue Book, such as depressive-, anxiety-, or trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Alternatively, people trying to apply for disability benefits for PTSD may be able to show that their symptoms, when considered in combination with other medical conditions or impairments, prevent them from performing SGA.

In addition, the SSA may also consider an individual's functional limitations caused by their PTSD symptoms in determining the individual’s ability to perform work-related activities. This includes evaluating their ability to concentrate, follow instructions, and interact with others in a work setting.

It is important to note that the evaluation of mental disorders by the SSA can be complex and may require documentation from mental health professionals as well as other medical providers. An experienced disability attorney or advocate may be able to assist with the application process and provide guidance on how best to present the medical evidence.

Applying for Disability Benefits

Did you know the SSA denies approximately two-thirds of all initial SSD applications? Reasons for doing so include everything from technical mistakes on application forms to lack of medical evidence in the application.

It is important to provide a thorough and accurate application when submitting one. If the SSA denies your claim, you might also appeal the decision.

Get Help With Your Disability Claim

Whether you have PTSD and you’re submitting an initial claim for disability benefits, or you’re appealing a denial, it can be quite advantageous to have representation from an attorney. A lawyer may help you gather evidence, complete paperwork, and more to ultimately facilitate you getting the benefits you may need. Get started today by filling out the Free Case Evaluation to schedule a free consultation.

Additional Resources