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In recognition of November celebrating Veterans Day for the service and sacrifice of Veterans and their families, this article serves as a guide and discussion for veterans applying for SSD/SSDI for PTSD. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a higher rate than veterans of any other conflict in American history. That could be because these conflicts were more stressful than previous wars. A case can certainly be made for this. The higher percentage could also be due to the fact that doctors now have a much better understanding and identifying PTSD as a brain injury.

Back during the Civil War, many soldiers exhibited what we recognize as classic PTSD symptoms, like hypervigilance, depression, and extreme mood swings. But doctors diagnosed this condition as nostalgia, which was basically recognized as an advanced form of homesickness. The prescribed therapy was normally participation in an intense offensive campaign to take their minds off of their troubles. Ironically, of course intense combat probably not only caused the symptoms in the first place, but went on to increase them.

We’ve come a long way since then. The best indication of this progress is that doctors now know that PTSD is a physical brain injury, as mentioned above. In recognition of this finding, the Canadian Armed Forces recently eliminated the PTSD label, which has some connotation baggage and is misleading, and replaced it with Operational Stress Injury. Soldiers with combat-related OSI are entitled to the Sacrifice Medal, which is the Canadian equivalent of a Purple Heart.

If your PTSD is disabling, a SSI disability lawyer in Memphis from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm will help you apply for Social Security Disability benefits. Even if you are already receiving VA benefits for PTSD, or have been denied VA benefits, our law professionals will assist you in the Memphis Metro Area and greater mid-south of Mississippi and Arkansas! Social Security disability is completely separate from Veterans Administration disability. One of the biggest differences is that SSD is an “all or nothing” proposition. As far as the Social Security Administration is concerned, veterans are either disabled or they are not. There is no proportional disability rating system.

Current Diagnosis

The VA requires a current diagnosis of a qualifying condition, and so does the Social Security Administration. If a condition is listed in the Blue Book, it could be disabling, according to the SSA. PTSD is usually a Blue Book condition. It normally falls under the Trauma- and stressor-related disorders category.

However, a current diagnosis alone is insufficient. To get to the next step, the claimant must meet some additional qualifications. These additional qualifications are a bit complex, so strap yourself in for a heavy download of info (this is why a Heermans Disability attorney is so valuable).

Initially, all PTSD disability claimants must have medical or other documentation which may establish some of the following symptoms:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Risk of serious injury, violence, or death (usually suicidal thoughts),
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, or other “involuntary re-experiencing of traumatic event
  • Avoidance of certain activities or situations
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty interacting with others
  • Inability to focus or concentrate on tasks

Additionally, claimants can show “marked limitation” in at least two of the following cognitive areas: self-management, social skills, concentration ability, and/or thought processing. Alternatively, the claimant may show at least a two-year history of “serious and persistent” symptoms.

We aren’t quite finished with this section yet. All SSD applicants must prove that their disabilities will last at least a year or are terminal. Since brain injuries like PTSD are permanent, these things are usually not difficult to prove. However, in some cases, PTSD comes and goes.


These things only prove that the claimant has a qualifying condition. Mild PTSD does not qualify, even if its effects are disabling.

The Blue Book identifies a “disability” as an illness or injury which prevents a person from working. So, the term is relative. A back problem which makes it impossible to sit for long periods of time might be disabling for a truck driver. But it is probably not disabling for other workers who do not have to sit as long. The SSA has a five-part test, which is applicable in most cases:

  • Current Employment: If the applicant is currently working and earning more than $1,310 a month (about $8 an hour), the applicant is not disabled. End of story. This is a per se rule.
  • Severe Condition: We talked about the symptoms of qualifying PTSD above. This inquiry involves the effect of these symptoms. According to the SSA, the disability symptoms must “significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering.”
  • Listed Condition: As outlined above, PTSD might or might not qualify as a trauma or stress-related disorder. If claimant’s condition does not qualify, for whatever reason, the claimant must also show that s/he cannot do the work s/he previously did and cannot hold down any other type of job which qualifies as substantial gainful employment.

Basically, SGA is the ability to earn enough to live above the poverty line. The earnings must also be sufficient to lift any dependents out of poverty.

As mentioned above, VA disability is separate from SSA disability. However, in terms of the evidence required, there are some similarities.

Medical evidence supports the medical component of a PTSD SSD claim. This medical evidence usually includes psychiatric history, psychological history, and medical examination results. Test results do not do much good in PTSD cases. This type of brain injury is usually invisible to MRIs and other such tests.

Non-medical evidence includes a vocational expert’s report and, perhaps more importantly, statements from friends, family, and co-workers about how PTSD symptoms affect the veteran’s daily life. Unfortunately the brain is known to disguise its own injuries. Therefore, many PTSD victims may not fully know or understand how this condition affects them. This is the “gray area” where claims are either successfully won or denied. Applying for and being awarded Social Security Disability is complicated. Understanding how to navigate a PTSD claim “gray area” is where a Heermans Law Firm attorney works their magic. Their understanding of the law and powerfully representing their clients results in the best outcome for claim approval. 

Medication Issues

Finally, applicants must be unresponsive to PTSD medication and/or physical therapy. This requirement is tedious but not impossible, and the Heermans SSA law firm will guide you on how to best meet SSD medication requirements as prescribed by your doctor. 

Various PTSD medications are available. Basically, exposure to extreme stress, such as combat stress or MST (Military Sexual Trauma) triggers a chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance causes the aforementioned effects. Some medications, including MDMA (Molly), cure this chemical imbalance in some people.

However, these medications are very strong and have powerful side effects. Not everyone can tolerate the dosage required for effective treatment.

Brain injury physical therapists can train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. Other PTSD victims benefit from group therapy, art therapy, meditation, and other offerings. Not all these services are available in all locations, and not everyone responds to them in the same way.

For more value added information about Social Security Disability related subjects visit our website article library. If you have suffered PTSD or brain injuries and you are seeking or been denied SSD benefits, contact the SSI lawyers near you at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm for a FREE disability evaluation or call and text 24/7 (901) 244-0057.


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