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Can Social Security Deny Disability Benefits Even If the VA Says I'm Disabled?

Posted by on in Denied Social Security Benefits

deny disability benefits, PTSD, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security Disability Insurance, Illinois disability casePost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Not surprisingly, PTSD is sadly common among veterans of the U.S. armed forces, especially those who have participated in combat operations. In many cases a veteran suffering from PTSD is unable to return to work, even in the civilian world, and may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Social Security Rules Ex-Marine Can Still Work PTSD “Triggers”

It is important to note, however, that just because a veteran qualifies for military disability benefits, that does not mean Social Security will automatically approve a subsequent application. Social Security has its own rules for assessing a disability. And when it comes to PTSD, the agency may conclude—contrary to the opinion of the Department of Veterans Affairs—that a person is still capable of holding down a full-time job, even if his or her symptoms render them unfit for certain kinds of work.

Here is an illustration from a recent Illinois disability case. The plaintiff in this case served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a seven-month combat tour during the first Persian Gulf War. The plaintiff was later diagnosed with PTSD as the result of his combat experiences.

After the plaintiff's discharge from the Marines, he did work for many years as a civilian flight attendant. But the plaintiff was eventually forced to leave that job because he continued to suffer flashbacks to the Gulf War, which he later attributed to certain “triggers,” including the smell of oil and crowds. Based on these and other symptoms, the VA concluded in 2010 the plaintiff was “100 percent disabled” and awarded him military disability benefits.

But Social Security determined the plaintiff did not meet its requirements for disability. An administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that in spite of the plaintiff's PTSD and other impairments, he could still perform “light work subject to certain restrictions.” After exhausting Social Security's internal appeals process, the plaintiff then sued the agency in court, seeking a new hearing.

A federal magistrate rejected the plainitff's appeal and affirmed Social Security's decision to deny benefits. The magistrate said the record presented to Social Security showed the plaintiff's PTSD symptoms had improved over the years, and while they worsened around the time the VA found him disabled, he continues to receive treatment. So even though the plaintiff could “probably” not return to his previous vocation as a flight attendant, he “could still work less stressful jobs, ones not bringing him into contact with his PTSD triggers.” Therefore Social Security acted within its discretion to deny disability benefits.

Do You Need Advice From a Chicago Social Security Lawyer?

Adjusting to civilian life following military service is never easy. For veterans suffering from PTSD, this adjustment often proves impossible. If you find yourself unable to work due to your triggers and symptoms, it is critical you speak with a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer who can help you understand your legal options. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today at 312-999-0999 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Social Security attorney.


Hamel v. Berryhill , U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Oct. 27, 2017.

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