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Can Veterans Receive Disability Benefits for Combat-Related PTSD?

 Posted on December 06, 2016 in Need to Apply for Social Security Disability

b2ap3_thumbnail_veterans-disability-benefits-Chicago.jpgPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common affliction that affects approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population. Not surprisingly, PTSD is even more common among members of the U.S. military. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of combat veterans who served during the Vietnam, Gulf War, and Iraqi conflicts have been diagnosed with PTSD. In many cases, the VA provides disability benefits for veterans diagnosed with PTSD related to their military service.

Social Security Ignores Evidence of Iraqi Veteran's PTSD

But what about Social Security Disability Insurance benefits? Unfortunately, our nation’s veterans often fare no better than civilians when dealing with the Social Security Administration. In one recent Illinois case, for example, a federal magistrate criticized Social Security for ignoring medical evidence of a veteran's PTSD.

The veteran in this case served in the U.S. Army for three years, including a combat tour in Iraq. The Veterans Administration diagnosed the veteran with PTSD and, based on its own regulations, rated him as “90 percent disabled.” The veteran later sought disability benefits from Social Security.

Before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the veteran's treating psychologist testified that he “experiences episodes of decompensation or deterioration in work or work like settings” due to his PTSD. The psychologist said the veteran exhibited “frequent or severe symptoms” that prevented him from holding down a full-time job, including “social withdrawal, aggressive behavior, verbal confrontation, and generalized inability to successfully work with others.” The psychologist further opined that the veteran was “limited” in his overall functional abilities.

The ALJ largely ignored this evidence and denied the veteran's claim for Social Security benefits. The ALJ claimed the psychologist found the veteran's “condition improved with medication” and that somehow meant he was able to work, notwithstanding the doctor's own testimony to the contrary. The ALJ similarly ignored testimony from a nurse practitioner who treated the veteran and largely concurred with the psychologist's assessment.

On appeal, the magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the veteran's application. The magistrate said the ALJ failed to give the psychologist's expert opinion “controlling weight”—because had the ALJ done so, he would have been forced to conclude the veteran was disabled. The problem, the magistrate said, was that he could not determine how much weight the ALJ actually did give to the psychologist and nurse practitioner's opinions. Indeed, the ALJ apparently failed to provide any explanation for his opinion and failed to “properly cite any of the factors the [Social Security] regulations require him to consider” in assessing medical evidence.

You Are Not Alone When Dealing With Social Security

The men and women who serve our country are entitled to better treatment than they often receive at the hands of Social Security. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD and need help pursuing a disability benefits claim, you do not need to fight your own government alone. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with a qualified Chicago Social Security disability attorney today.




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