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PTSD Questions & Answers
Joyce Boaz & Dr. Frank Ochberg, M.D.

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Work Issues: Disability Letter for Attorney-Sample

Q: Dear Joyce, I am just off the phone with my attorney re: PTSD disability. They say it is critical that I have a letter, even a small paragraph from my doctor concerning PTSD = specifically: Will I live with it for the rest of my life? Why is it disabling?

Does Dr. Ochberg have a generic letter that doesn't have to cover a specific person = me; but is made for attorneys to understand and target the needs of a PTSD person; help information for attorneys to fight SSA for their clients?

I am a poor person. I go to a community clinic. Yes I see a doctor. I take Zoloft and anxiety pills for my PTSD. However I have approached them about it and it is a standard response: "We don't fill out papers for anyone. Sorry. We function on voluntary donations and volunteer staff our goal is to treat persons who do not have private health insurance and cannot afford to pay for healthcare in the private sector".

Let me know if there are any ideas on your end. My attorney's explained that it comes down to local area office making decision. Yes other areas get PTSD and readily accept it, not putting up such resistance. It is awareness of the condition and some areas are slower at understanding it than others. The South tends to think more in terms of physical limitations: can you, walk, stand, have intelligence etc = then there in no reason why you can not work. They don't take into consideration things like: difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritably, avoidance of people and places, difficulty concentrating; hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, etc. What can help educate in this area? Is there general info that Dr. Ochberg provides?

A: Dear Joyce, PTSD often becomes a chronic condition ( When PTSD is chronic, it may last many years and may require a disability determination. Many veterans are disabled due to PTSD and they receive disability benefits. If you can compare your PTSD to that of a veteran who carries an invisible injury, a profound injury, your claim may have a more favorable reception. Also, if you have found a lawyer who is on your side, that lawyer may be able to help you word your request to a Medical Doctor to have a letter written on your behalf. Here are some paragraphs that XX can use, or that her lawyer can use to help her doctor compose a letter.

Dear Clinic Administrator:

I represent XX who is disabled with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder and is receiving medication for her condition from your organization. Thank you very much for your generous service to my client. Knowing that professional staff time is limited, I have taken the liberty of drafting a letter for XX's doctor's signature. This letter is vital for my client's financial well-being and will contribute to her quality of life.

To Whom it May Concern,

I am XX's physician, treating her with medication for Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-5 code # 309.81). Ms. XX meets the diagnostic criteria for this condition. Disabling features of chronic PTSD include vivid, frightening, unwanted recollections of near-death experiences; nightmares and other disturbances of normal sleep; avoidance of reminders of the traumatic events; numbing of the full range of positive human emotions; difficulty concentrating; and a lowered threshold for anxious arousal. Ms. XX receives and benefits from medication for this condition (medications and doses can be listed here).

Because of the persistence of this medical condition, I believe it will continue for the foreseeable future.

Ms XX is much like a veteran of combat, having a well-recognized, well-documented "invisible wound" that is directly related to specific traumatic events. This is not the same as being sensitive or emotional or having a "nervous disposition."


_______________, MD

Joyce, that draft letter is not necessarily correct for every lawyer, doctor or situation. Some want to be "short and sweet." Some want to be more specific and detailed. Some resent having words drafted for them. But this example may be useful for XX and others.

Remember, treating physicians do not make disability determinations. Those determinations are made by trained staff of governmental or other agencies. Doctors are often asked to provide medical evidence on standard forms for disability determination. But XX is looking for language that could help her lawyer help her.

Let's see if this is useful.


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Page created on 28 February 2014
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