Does PTSD Qualify for Disability Benefits?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious condition, most known for affecting veterans after serious incidents in military service, but can also affect a wide range of people who have suffered through traumatic events. PTSD can be a qualifying condition for Social Security disability benefits. Still, the SSA will need to consider a range of medical documentation to decide if the symptoms are serious enough to warrant assistance.

How Social Security Lists PTSD

In 2017, the SSA updated the “impairment listing” for PTSD under listing 12.15 as “trauma- and stressor-related disorders”. In order to qualify, the applicant must have medically documented evidence of all of the following:

  • Exposure to death or threatened death, serious injury, or violence
  • Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event such as intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks
  • Avoidance of external event reminders
  • Disturbance in mood and behavior
  • Increases in “arousal and reactivity” (such as exaggerated sleep startle response, sleep disturbance, etc.)

These must lead to severe or extreme limitations in additional areas, including:

  • Adapting or managing oneself (emotion regulation, general daily life tasks, etc.)
  • Socially appropriate interactions
  • General concentration
  • Information retainment (including following instructions and applying new knowledge to tasks)

Documenting through a Residual Functional Capacity Form (RFC)

The SSA needs detailed documentation from the applicant (or the person applying on his or her behalf) to make an appropriate determination. A mental health provider will likely need to fill out an RFC form in order to increase the chance of approval. This form highlights the specific diagnosis and ongoing symptomatic issues.

Additionally, “third-party statements” written by friends, family, and others who have regular interaction with the applicant can also help establish the severity of his or her PTSD. These statements should focus on the applicant’s personal day-to-daily difficulties.


PTSD is just one of a range of mental illnesses that qualify for Social Security disability benefits but could be initially denied due to lack of documentation or something else. If you or a loved one was initially denied, know that you can count on Drew L. Johnson, P.C. to help you through the appeals process. Call (541) 434-6466 today to schedule a free consultation.