Most people think of physical injuries and diseases when they think of disabilities. However, mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are also disabilities. PTSD can prevent a person from returning to work or earning their regular income. Many employees suffering from this disorder can’t perform their job-related duties or find work elsewhere.

Workers who have PTSD could pursue benefits through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance or Social Security disability. If you meet the specific requirements, you could collect the benefit payments you need to pay for medical treatment and supplement your lost wages.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

ptsd social security disabilityPost-traumatic stress disorder is a type of mental illness. Typically, a scary event triggers the condition and results in a range of debilitating symptoms. Many people face challenges coping with what happened to them.

It can be difficult to adjust after a life-altering experience. Performing routine tasks and functioning at work could become overwhelming.

PTSD can develop within a month of a traumatic event. Sometimes, symptoms don’t start until years later. Your PTSD symptoms could interfere with your daily routine and cause physical or mental impairments.

PTSD symptoms fall under four categories – avoidance, intrusive memories, changes in emotional and physical reactions, and negative changes in mood and thinking.


Symptoms associated with avoidance can involve:

  • Avoiding people, places, and activities that trigger memories of the traumatic experience
  • Trying to avoid talking or thinking about the event

Intrusive Memories

Common symptoms of intrusive memories include:

  • Nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Recurrent, unwanted memories
  • Severe physical reactions or emotional distress to things reminding the person of the experience
  • Having flashbacks of what happened

Changes in Emotional and Physical Reactions

Changes in the way a person reacts physically and emotionally are also referred to as arousal symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Easily frightened or startled
  • Overwhelming feelings of shame or guilt
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Always on guard for potential dangers
  • Aggressive behavior, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Trouble concentrating

Negative Changes in Mood and Thinking

Symptoms involving negative changes in thinking and mood can include:

  • Trouble maintaining close relationships with others
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Memory issues, including difficulty remembering specific circumstances of the traumatic event
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Negative thoughts about oneself, the world, or other people
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in enjoyable activities

Definition of PTSD as a Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers post-traumatic stress disorder a disability. It falls under the category of trauma and stressor-related disorders.

According to the SSA, these disorders occur after witnessing or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event. They can also result from learning about a close friend or family member’s experience.

The SSA mentions common symptoms of trauma and stressor-related disorders, such as PTSD. They include:

  • Flashbackssymptoms of ptsd
  • Distressing memories
  • Avoidant behavior
  • Dreams
  • Diminished participation or interest in significant activities
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Persistent negative emotional state
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Exaggerated startle response

Applying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

You can file a claim for benefits through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. However, the typical stresses of your job are not enough to support a claim for job-related PTSD in New York. Rather, the stressful event must be extremely stressful and well-beyond the typical stresses one might experience on your job. Stress resulting from legitimate personnel decisions by an employer, will not support a Workers Compensation claim for PTSD in New York, although they may be severe enough to qualify for Social Security Disability.

Upon approval of your workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to healthcare benefits. The insurance company must cover the cost of treatment related to your PTSD symptoms. State law requires you to get your treatment with a medical provider authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board. You could be forced to pay for your medical bills out of pocket if you see a doctor the board does not approve.

Lost wage benefits are also available if your PTSD causes a reduction in income or keeps you from your job for longer than seven days. Payments are two-thirds of the average weekly wage you earned prior to your diagnosis multiplied by your disability rating.

A disability rating is a rating a doctor assigns based on the severity of a medical condition. If your medical provider believes your PTSD symptoms affect your functional capacity by 20 percent, they could assign you a 20 percent disability rating. However, if they think you have a total disability due to your diagnosis, they could give you a 100 percent disability rating.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You could receive Social Security disability benefits if you meet these requirements:

  • Your condition falls under the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability
  • You paid Social Security taxes at your jobs

Typically, monthly benefit payments are available to workers who are unable to return to their jobs for longer than a year. If your PTSD results from a traumatic event outside of work and prevents you from maintaining employment, you could apply for benefits. The amount of your payments will depend on the number of years you worked and your average wages before your diagnosis.

Contact Us

If you were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and can no longer earn your usual wages, do not hesitate to contact Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C.. For over 40 years, our team has helped workers recover the benefits they’re entitled to.

Call us at 516-496-0400 today for a free consultation with one of our New York disability attorneys.

Last Updated : January 10, 2023
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