PTSD, A Disability in the Shadows

PTSD qualifies as a disability because it is a condition that is considered to substantially limit brain function, 10% of women compared to 4% of men develop it according to Doug Heise of the National Law Review. It is common among veterans because of their higher risk of exposure to trauma on a daily basis. Today, eleven to twenty percent of service members who return from deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq have PTSD symptoms. 


We’ve known that PTSD has existed for a long time, especially when we reference different major wars in history like the ‘shell shock’ from World War One (July 1914-November 1918), ‘battle fatigue’ from World War II (September 1939-September 2, 1945) and the Korean War (June 25, 1950-July 27, 1953), and ‘Post-Vietnam syndrome’ (November 1, 1955-April 30, 1975). The reason the war dates have been included is that they were prolonged experiences of trauma that appear to have made it become a normalized expectation of those who are brought into war. They also total a period of thirty-three years at war and impact baby boomers who are the largest and fastest-growing population of persons with disabilities. 

 PTSD is a term that encompasses the symptoms of all of the previously mentioned names and still exists for many individuals who lived through these sixty-one years of traumatic history. With that, how PTSD is treated as a disability or illness has changed because what constitutes a disability has changed throughout the years, especially with the most recent change under the Bush administration in 2008 with his Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act that broadened the scope of what is a legitimate disability.  

Over a quarter-million Vietnam-War veterans still have PTSD, according to the Smithsonian, and the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, DC is a testament to their experience with more than 58,000 names of those who died during their service. There is also the Vietnam Women’s Memorial that commemorates the 265,000 women that served in the war, many of them working as nurses. 

Cora, AbiliTrek’s blogger shares, “I’ve personally seen this marble wall itself and the artistry behind using marble allows for the viewer’s reflection to exist with the names that they are looking at.” When she visited Washington, DC in high school things like this memorial really resonated with her because there is a humanizing element that is occurring to an area that is often associated with politics and policies. “I also visited the Holocaust museum and saw the famous shoe display of those who had been killed.” 


Seven to eight percent of the American population will develop PTSD at some point in their lives, and nearly ten percent of women compared to four percent of men get it. PTSD is often correlated as being a wartime disorder and impacts veterans more so only because they have a higher risk of exposure to trauma on a daily basis, according to Heyl of the National Law Review, but it impacts a much broader range of people who have experienced trauma in some way. Trauma can include natural disasters, mass catastrophes, and serious accidents as well as being related or affiliated with someone else who has been through more direct trauma. 

Knowing that PTSD can impact anyone at any point means that being aware of what it is as a broader community can help those who have been diagnosed feel more comfortable with pursuing activities, travels, and social opportunities with their disability. Find your local resources and programs that work with veterans and other communities who commonly acquire PTSD to become active in helping them begin again in becoming more comfortable in their own skin engaging with the world around them!