Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after traumatic experiences, such as violence, accidents or natural disasters. This anxiety disorder causes physical changes in the brain, along with adverse physical and cognitive effects. These can be highly debilitating or disruptive. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to Illinois residents with severe PTSD that prevents gainful employment.
Qualifying with PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder victims may qualify for benefits by meeting the terms of an impairment listing in the Social Security Administration book Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. PTSD is included with anxiety disorders in Section 12. If victims do not meet necessary criteria, they may qualify through a medical-vocational allowance.
To match the listing, victims must show one specific medical finding. A victim might suffer from recurring obsessions, repeated recollections of the experience or persistent fear and avoidance of a related activity, object or situation. The victim could experience severe weekly panic attacks. The victim also could experience three of the following symptoms: anxiety, scanning, motor tension or autonomic hyperactivity.
In addition to demonstrating one of these findings, the victim must prove the PTSD prevents independent functioning outside of the home. Or, the victim could document two of the following limitations:
- Reduced ability to perform typical daily living activities
- Significant challenges in behaving appropriately in social settings
- Difficulty focusing, persisting in tasks or completing tasks in a timely manner
- Worsening, repeated cases of decompensation, which are episodes when symptoms become worse
Individuals who cannot meet these criteria may be eligible for SSD benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. When granting an allowance, the SSA considers the disabling condition’s impacts on the individual’s functional abilities. The SSA then evaluates whether the individual is capable of gainful work.
PTSD can cause various debilitating effects. These include sleep disturbances, memory problems and poor concentration. The SSA may determine these effects render the victim effectively disabled.
For claims involving anxiety-related disorders, medical evidence must include one description of a typical anxiety episode. The severity, duration, frequency and disabling effects of the episode should be included. Factors that triggered the episode or worsened it should also be noted.
Anyone who has witnessed an episode can provide this account. If a medical professional writes the description, he or she should specify whether it is based on firsthand observations or secondary sources. The professional should also note whether the episode and its symptoms match symptoms the professional has directly witnessed.
Medical evidence should also include an analysis of the victim’s ability to work despite the PTSD. Through a Residual Functional Capacity form, a physician can evaluate specific physical and mental limitations the condition causes. This gives the SSA valuable information that medical records alone may not indicate.