Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a term referring to any serious head injury that causes damage to the brain. These are most commonly caused by car accidents, falls and injuries from guns. The severity of injuries can vary from mild to severe depending on how serious the causing incident was. Sometimes the condition completely heals. Other times, certain lost functions are regained with physical therapy. In other cases, lost functions are not regained or symptoms get even worse. This is when traumatic brain injury can be the most debilitating.
TBI may result in neurological and mental impairments with a wide variety of posttraumatic symptoms and signs. The rate and extent of recovery can be highly variable and the long-term outcome may be difficult to predict in the first few months post-injury. Generally, the neurological impairment (s) will stabilize more rapidly than any mental impairment (s). Sometimes a mental impairment may appear to improve immediately following TBI and then worsen, or, conversely, it may appear much worse initially but improve after a few months. Therefore, the mental findings immediately following TBI may not reflect the actual severity of your mental impairment (s). The actual severity of a mental impairment may not become apparent until 6 months post-injury.
Assessment of TBI Functional Impairments and Impact on Ability to be Employed
TBI can damage brain regions associated with various functions resulting in impairments in consciousness, movement, balance, sensation and cognition. Frontal lobe injury has a particularly significant impact on an individual’s functioning, ability to be employed and disability. Frontal lobe TBI can result in impairment in attention, judgment, memory, cognition, communication, decisional capacity, carrying out tasks in a logical sequence, as well as behavioral limitation such as impulse control, anxiety, mood fluctuations and apathy. Clearly, limitations in frontal lobe function from severe TBI will affect one’s ability to be employed. Thus, evaluation of frontal lobe impairment and functional capacity is crucial for patients with chronic TBI.
Length of Impairment and Social Security Disability
In some cases, evidence of a profound neurological impairment is sufficient to permit a finding of disability within 3 months post-injury. If a finding of disability within 3 months post-injury is not possible based on any neurological impairment (s), we will defer adjudication of the claim until we obtain evidence of your neurological or mental impairments at least 3 months post-injury. If a finding of disability still is not possible at that time, we will again defer adjudication of the claim until we obtain evidence at least 6 months post-injury. At that time, we will fully evaluate any neurological and mental impairments and adjudicate the claim.
Other Ways to Qualify for Social Security Disability for TBI Under the Listings
One can also qualify for disability by meeting the requirements of organic mental disorders. These are extreme changes in personality, mood or cognitive function brought on by brain damage. Disorientation, an inability to concentrate, disruption of daily activities and problems with social function are all common symptoms. If you are not found disabled by any of the above conditions, you can also be eligible for disability by proving that you are unable to work because of your brain injury. Your physical and mental faculties will have to be assessed and you will have to be determined to be unable to hold a continuous job because of impairments in physical or mental function.
If you or a loved one has had prolonged evidence of cerebral impairment due to a traumatic brain injury, you should consider hiring an experienced disability attorney to assist you with applying for (or appealing) a Long Term Disability Insurance, Social Security Disability, SSDI or SSI claim. Call The Ortiz Law Firm at 850-308-7833 to for a free case evaluation.