Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) affect thousands of Hoosiers a year. In 2017, over 33,000 people in Indiana suffered a TBI. While most TBIs are mild and only require emergency care, moderate-to-severe TBIs can result in life-altering symptoms.
If you have experienced a TBI, you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, you must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) qualifications for TBI impairments. If you do not meet their qualifications, then you must prove that your symptoms are too severe to continue working.
Mild, Moderate, and Severe TBIs
A traumatic brain injury can be a concussion, or a severe head injury that results in coma or death. Accidental falls are the leading cause of TBIs, followed by motor vehicle accidents.
Concussions make up about 80 percent of all TBIs and are considered a mild brain injury. Sometimes concussion symptoms do not become noticeable for hours or days after the injury. Whiplash can also cause a concussion, which is why it is so important to see a doctor after any traumatic injury or car accident that results in neck pain.
Concussions do not usually have any long-lasting symptoms. However, repetitive concussions can cause just as much damage as a moderate TBI.
Moderate to severe TBIs often have symptoms that last for months or even years after the original injury. Affects include loss of motor function, behavioral changes, amnesia, and even coma.
If a head injury causes you to lose consciousness for an extended amount of time, you have probably experienced a moderate to severe TBI.
How the SSA Defines a TBI
To qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), i.e. disability benefits, you must prove that your condition matches the SSA’s list of impairments.
If a TBI has kept you from functioning physically or mentally, or hinders motor function in two of your extremities, then you meet the SSA’s qualifications for a neurological disability.
If you experience “extreme limitations” — meaning you cannot stand up or stay balanced without the aid of a walker, cane, or another person’s support — or trouble using your upper extremities for at least three consecutive months after the TBI, that fulfills the SSA’s qualifications for a neurological disability.
In addition, if you have marked limitations in physical or mental functioning for at least three consecutive months after the TBI, that also fulfills the SSA’s qualifications. Marked limitations on mental functions means that you have extreme difficulty with at least one of the following:
- Understanding or applying new information
- Interacting with others
- Concentrating or staying on task at a consistent pace
- Regulating emotions, controlling your behavior, or managing your personal hygiene and health
The SSA verifies your disability by using medical records as well as personal testimony.
An MRI or CAT scan will show the extent of a moderate to severe TBI. If you suffered a mild TBI, you may need additional neurological testing to prove the extent of your condition.
If you experience depression, PTSD, or anxiety as a result of a TBI, this also counts towards qualifying you for disability. Include records from your therapist or doctor if you are treating for those conditions.
It is important to be completely honest about any mental or physical limitations in your daily life. Medical records from your doctor can back up your testimony, or they can prove that you were exaggerating.
If the SSA determines that your condition isn’t severe enough to meet their listing requirements, then they may grant you a medical vocational allowance.
What is a Medical Vocational Allowance?
When considering you for disability benefits, the SSA also looks at how your condition impacts your ability to keep sustainable gainful activity (SGA).
Your medical records and personal testimony will help prove what level of work you are able to do. If the SSA finds that you could do “past relevant work” that is less physically or mentally demanding than your most recent job, they may deny you benefits.
However, if your condition prevents you from doing any past work at all, the SSA will consider any modern jobs that you could do based on your existing skill set. If there is absolutely no way you could work, even though your condition doesn’t match the severity of the SSA’s listing, you would then be awarded a medical vocational allowance and approved for disability.
Help from a Social Security Disability Attorney
Applying for SSDI can be a long and grueling process. Luckily, you don’t have to go through it alone. A local social security disability attorney can not only walk you through the application process, but can do the legwork of gathering medical records, written testimonies, and advocate to the SSA on your behalf.
If you have suffered a TBI and want to apply for disability benefits, give Hensley Legal Group a call or contact us online. Download our free ebook, 8 Mistakes to Avoid when Filing for Social Security Disability, to give yourself a better chance at being approved for disability benefits the first time around.