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Is PTSD a Disability?

Last Updated: November 6, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

It’s common for people with a PTSD diagnosis to wonder if PTSD is considered a disability. The answer isn’t always entirely straightforward, but you might qualify for PTSD disability benefits. 

PTSD can cause significant distress and interfere with daily life. In some cases, PTSD can rise to the level of a disability. Below, the details related to PTSD disability benefits are described more fully. Eligibility for benefits can vary based on the type of benefits sought. 

Is PTSD Considered a Disability?

Whether PTSD constitutes a disability depends upon the severity and nature of symptoms. Having PTSD in and of itself does not necessarily mean that a person is disabled. However, a person may qualify for PTSD disability benefits if symptoms are severe and disabling. 

Formally, PTSD may be recognized as a disability if a person qualifies for benefits based on having a PTSD diagnosis. Qualification can vary based on the specific benefits a person is seeking. For instance, Social Security and the Veterans Administration each have their own definitions of disability.  

Types of PTSD Disability Benefits

There are various types of disability benefits for which you may be eligible if you have PTSD. These include:

  • VA Benefits: Per VA guidelines, veterans can be eligible to receive disability compensation if they have been diagnosed with PTSD and the diagnosis is the result of a stressor that occurred during their service. 
  • Social Security: You may qualify for disability benefits under Social Security if you meet the criteria for PTSD. You’ll need to demonstrate that you were exposed to death or threatened death, serious injury or violence and that you also re-experience the event involuntarily. 

You must also demonstrate disturbance in mood, avoidance of reminders of the event and increases in arousal and reactivity. In addition to showing these symptoms, you must show evidence of severe limitations in one area, such as managing yourself, concentrating, interacting with others and learning/understanding information. Suppose your limitations from PTSD are not severe. In that case, you might still qualify if you can demonstrate that you’re engaged in treatment or living in a protected setting and that your ability to adapt to changes is minimal. 

  • Employer-provided disability benefits: You may be able to access long-term disability benefits if you need to take time off from work due to PTSD treatment or symptoms. A disability insurance plan can be purchased through your employer, and it will provide you with an income when you are absent from work for an extended period. Whether PTSD qualifies as a disability under an employer-provided disability insurance plan will depend upon the policies of your specific insurance plan. 

How to Receive PTSD Disability Benefits

If you’re looking for advice on how to apply for PTSD disability benefits, the specific process will vary based upon the type of benefits for which you are applying. Before beginning the process, it’s essential to consult with the agency from which you’re seeking benefits. 

Consider the facts below:

  • For those applying for VA or Social Security benefits for PTSD, both organizations have specific application procedures. Both agencies will require you to submit a claim to determine whether you have a disability. 
  • The VA will determine the severity of your disability, which will be reported as a percentage ranging from 0 to 100% with 10% increments. The higher the percentage, the larger your benefits package will be. 
  • If you’re applying for VA benefits, you can work with an accredited representative to obtain assistance with filing a disability claim. 
  • Social Security allows you to apply for benefits online. 
  • Both the VA and Social Security will require you to gather and submit medical documentation supporting the fact that you have a disability. 
  • Accessing benefits through a long-term disability insurance plan will require you to follow the policies associated with your specific plan. Contact your human resources department or the company that provides your disability insurance plan to learn particular procedures. 

General Requirements for Receiving PTSD Benefits

In general, you’ll be required to submit medical documentation confirming that you have a disability. This means gathering diagnostic assessments, notes from visits with the doctor, documentation from hospital stays and progress notes from mental health professionals.

This documentation will be used to establish the existence of a disability. The more documentation you submit, the more likely you’ll be approved for benefits. With more documentation, your benefits may also be greater if you’re applying for VA disability since your disability will be graded according to a percentage. 

For VA benefits, you will need to demonstrate not only that you have a PTSD diagnosis but also that your PTSD is a result of a traumatic event that occurred during your time in the service. 

The Social Security Administration has its own policy for PTSD disability benefits. In addition to demonstrating that you meet the administration’s definition of a disability, you will generally be required to prove that you have been unable to work for at least a year. You’ll also be required to show that you have been employed in a job covered by Social Security and that you’ve earned 40 work credits, which would need $65,600 in total income from working such a job. 

The general requirements for an employer-provided disability insurance plan will depend upon the nature of your policy. 

What If My Claim Gets Denied?

If your claim for PTSD disability benefits was denied, it could be because the agency reviewing your documentation made an error, or you might have provided insufficient documentation to support your claim. It’s also possible that you do not qualify for benefits based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition.

In many cases, you can appeal a disability claim after denial. There may be deadlines for filing an appeal, and it’s essential to be mindful of them. Be prepared to provide any additional documentation requested to support your claim. You might also benefit from talking with a disability attorney to assist you with appealing your denied claim.

When PTSD symptoms are severe and make it difficult to function in daily life, it’s important to seek treatment. At The Recovery Village Kansas City, we provide a full continuum of services for PTSD, whether it occurs on its own or alongside a substance use disorder. Contact one of our recovery advocates today to learn more about our services.

Sources “VA Disability Compensation for PTSD.” August 31, 2023. Accessed October 27, 2023. 

Hotfelder, Aaron. “How Can I Document My PTSD in Order to Get Social Security Benefits?” NOLO. Accessed October 27, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Labor. “Disability Insurance.” Accessed October 27, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Compensation.” November 26, 2019. Accessed October 27, 2023. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Get Help From an Accredited Representative.” January 25, 2023. Accessed October 27, 2023. 

Social Security Administration. “How You Apply.” Accessed October 27, 2023. 

Social Security Administration. “How You Qualify.” Accessed October 27, 2023.