PTSD and Social Security Disability – What Do I Need To Show To Get Disability for PTSD?

Michael is a client of mine.  He admirably served our great country in some very brutal and hostile territory.  The horrors he described experiencing have clearly left a mark on him.  While a decorated soldier and a certified tough guy, Michael struggles to deal with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder his service left him with.  He attends counseling sessions at the VA clinic in Reserve, Louisiana, meets with a psychologist and psychiatrist at VA New Orleans, and has trouble in his everyday life as a result. Michael called us looking for help obtaining Social Security disability benefits due to his PTSD.

PTSD is characterized by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a close family member or close friend, and the psychological aftermath of clinically significant effects on functioning. Symptoms and signs may include, but are not limited to, distressing memories, dreams, and flashbacks related to the trauma or stressor; avoidant behavior; diminished interest or participation in significant activities; persistent negative emotional states (for example, fear, anger) or persistent inability to experience positive emotions (for example, satisfaction, affection); anxiety; irritability; aggression; exaggerated startle response; difficulty concentrating; and sleep disturbance.

PTSD can be seen in our military veterans, in crime victims, and survivors of other traumatic or stressful events – such as car crashes, physical and verbal abuse, and similar events.

SSA recognized the seriousness of this disease in its most recent mental health listings.  Listing 12.15 recognizes the severe effects of PTSD on survivors and others and provides a pathway to a favorable decision.

To meet the requirements of Listing 12.15, a person must show the following:

  1. Medical documentation of all of the following:
    1. Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
    2. Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
    3. Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
    4. Disturbance in mood and behavior; and
    5. Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).

AND

  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information.
    2. Interact with others.
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
    4. Adapt or manage oneself.

OR

  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.

If a person’s PTSD does not specifically meet the listing, a skilled and experienced Louisiana Social Security Disability attorney can help present a PTSD case in a strategic way to make sure all of the severe symptoms and limitations caused are taken into account by SSA. 

For Michael, and others like him, SSA’s recognition of this debilitating disease in a specific listing is tremendously beneficial. 

If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD and needs help with obtaining Louisiana Social Security Disability benefits, give our team at Louisiana Disability Law a call today: (985) 240-9773.

Please note that names are changed and circumstances may be combined for illustration purposes!

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney