Brain Injuries and Social Security Disability.

We  hearing more about Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) these days, with the news coverage of veterans and their care, as well as some athletes.  Although our heath care systems will be managing these injuries for decades to come, there are many causes for brain injuries. Veterans with TBI should always be aware that eligibility for Social Security disability or SSI programsmay exist alongwith eligibility for veterans’ benefits.

Strokes and brain trauma are primary causes of disability. Impairment is best measured by complete neuropsychological testing. Itmay be additionally substantiated by testimony of the claimant, and others who have observed changed behavior and limitations. One marker in Social Security law is “the loss of measured intellectual ability of at least 15 I.Q. points from preinjury levels.” Social Security points out that brain injuries may manifest in a variety of post-traumatic symptoms.

Social Security points out that TBI may manifest in a variety of post-traumatic symptoms. The recovery rate is highly variable and the long-term outcome may be difficult to predictin the first few months.  Sometimes a patient may appear to improve immediately and then precipitously worsen. Conversely, it may appear much worse initially but improve after a few months.

Social Security definitions and regulations look at symptoms such asaphasia(difficulty saying words), and problems with movement or balance. Typically there will also be severe memory and concentration problems, and difficulty completing simple tasks in a timely way. Extreme fatigueis also common, and can in itself preclude work. Symptoms worsen when a person is tired, and speech and physical problems become more pronounced.

For Social Security eligibility, the effects of brain trauma are also evaluated in terms of personality change, social functioning, motor function, and mood disturbances.

People who have had brain trauma often try to present themselves as being as highly functional as possible. It is sometimes difficult to convince them to talk about their “worst day” rather than their “best day.” Having a relative or friend testify about actual functioning achieves greater clarity.

Often cases involving brain injuries from strokes or injuries will be denied at the initial levels of the Social Security process. The denials will simply state that while there may be a problem, it would be “expected to resolve” within twelve months, and thus there is no eligibility. Denials should be appealed immediately. We can help with this process and tracking other important deadlines.