Guest Post by John Dowling
If you suffer from PTSD, you know better than anyone the effect that it can have on your life. It can make it difficult to function in everyday life; to manage a relationship; or to even hold an occupation. While there is no easy ailment to any of these issues, there are different programs available to help alleviate some of the burdens that your PTSD may impose. One particular is a federal program called Social Security Disability Insurance.
Nearly everyone is aware of the Social Security Administration, as they have retired relatives or friends. But what many people do not realize is that you are eligible for these benefits early if you have a disability that prevents you from holding any kind of employment. That is one of the ways we most commonly explain Social Security Disability Insurance—it is as if you are retiring early. If you have a considerable work history, and your PTSD makes it impossible to hold onto a position, you may be
eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
However, this is unfortunately no easy task. First and foremost, you will need to have extensive medical documentation from a doctor, and most often times it will have to be from a therapist or a psychologist. A common issue people have with qualifying for SSDI with a mental condition is that it can be so difficult to prove compared to physical conditions. Therefore, the SSA has set standards on accepting PTSD claims in their Blue Book, using the following criteria:
A. Your medical records must document at least one of the following findings:
i. You must recall a traumatic experience; and/or
ii. You must have recurring obsessions or compulsions; and/or
iii. 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
iv. 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
v. 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).
In addition, you must meet the conditions of either paragraph B or C below:
B. Your medical records must show at least two of the following findings:
i. You are markedly restricted in your normal daily activities, and/or
ii. You have marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and/or
iii. You have marked difficulty in maintaining your concentration, persistence, or pace, and/or
iv. You have repeated episodes of decompensation (worsening psychiatric symptoms), that are of extended duration.
C. Your medical records must prove that your PTSD results in your complete inability to function on
your own outside your house.
If you have been working with a physician regarding your PTSD, you should have no problem with documenting the severity of your condition. The initial application can be a bit confusing, so take your time when completing it. If one field is incorrectly filled out, they will automatically deny your claim despite how dire your situation may be. So are you are filling out an application, be sure to take your time and ask questions at your local SSA office to make it easier on yourself long-term. Additionally, there are a number of advocates, attorneys, and disability representatives that are available to speak with should you feel you require assistance.
Most of all, when you are applying for SSDI, it is vital to be as honest as possible. Do not let your pride get in the way of helping yourself and your family. It can take up to a year or two to receive Social Security Disability Insurance. However, if you are out of work and expect to be for a considerable period of time, it is a road worth travelling. Giving up is easy, but do not let it be an option. You may be denied numerous times, but do not stop fighting for the benefits you may be entitled to. You have worked hard
to get where you are and paid into the Social Security system through your FICA taxes. You have enough on your plate as it is; do not let stress of finances add to it.
John Dowling is the Senior Editor for Boston based Social Security Disability Help, the web’s ultimate resource for information regarding Social Security Disability benefits. He has written numerous pieces that have been displayed on some of the web’s top disability forums trying to spread his knowledge and experience to those who need it most.
The opinions expressed in this post solely represent those of the author.