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Comprehensive Guide to Social Security Disability and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are unfortunately very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2021, around 190 people in the United States died from a traumatic brain injury per day. In 2019, nearly 223,000 people in the United States were hospitalized for a traumatic brain injury. This indicates that there were more that 611 hospitalizations related to traumatic brain injury per day. In addition to traumatic brain injuries treated in an inpatient hospital setting, there are traumatic brain injuries which are treated in the emergency department, by a primary care provider, or at an urgent care center. There are also additional traumatic brain injuries which unfortunately are not treated at all. Men are nearly two times more likely to be hospitalized and three times more likely to die from a traumatic brain injury than women. These injuries can unfortunately result in serious physical or mental limitations.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden violent physical blow occurs to the head or body. Objects that go through brain tissue such as bullets can also cause traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries can range in the level of severity. These can result in only a mild concussion or can result in a severe injury that causes a coma or death. A mild brain injury can cause physical symptoms such as nausea, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, loss of balance, and problems with speech. It can also cause sensory problems such as light sensitivity, blurred vision, or ringing in the ears. The person can experience loss of memory, problems with concentration, changes in sleeping such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, a state of being dazed or confused, or feelings of depression or anxiety. A person with a moderate to severe brain injury can experience physical symptoms such as dilation of the pupils, more severe nausea or vomiting, convulsions or seizures, loss of coordination, weakness in the fingers or toes, loss of consciousness, or persistent headaches. Cognitively, a person with a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may demonstrate slurred speech, significant confusion, or agitation or combativeness.

There are different types of traumatic brain injuries. One type is a closed brain injury. This occurs when there is a nonpenetrating injury to the brain which does not result in a break of the skull. This type of injury is typically caused by forward and backward movement that is rapid and causes shaking of the brain inside of the bony skull. This results in bruising and tearing of the blood vessels and brain tissue. These types of traumatic brain injuries typically occur with car accidents and falls. Another type of traumatic brain injury is a penetrating brain injury. This occurs when there is a break in the skull, or penetration, such as a gunshot wound. Brain injuries can be described on a primary and secondary basis. The primary brain injury occurs during the sudden injury to the brain which is essentially considered to be complete at the time that the impact occurred. The secondary brain injury is the change in the brain that evolves over a period of time following the primary brain injury. These are changes to the cellular, structural, and chemical parts of the brain which continue to destroy the brain tissue.

For the most part, when brain cells or damaged or destroyed as a result of a traumatic brain injury, they do not regenerate. Younger individuals, though, are more likely to be able to recover from a traumatic brain injury. The time frame for recovery from a traumatic brain injury varies from person to person and the prognosis is not always known. Recovery from a traumatic brain injury may require extensive rehabilitation which can take months to years, and sometimes a lifetime.

How can I qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available for people with sufficient work credits – that is, people who have worked and paid taxes on their income for at least five of the past ten years. They must have a severe condition which lasts or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. They must be unable to engage in substantial work for at least one year as a result of their severe condition.

If you have experienced a traumatic brain injury that has kept you from being able to work, Social Security will review your medical records to determine the severity of your condition. Social Security will review your hospitalization records, doctor’s notes, any therapy or rehabilitation notes from your recovery process, or any other medical documentation you have that demonstrates the severity of your condition. Therefore, it is very important to receive treatment for your traumatic brain injury and to continue to receive treatment on an ongoing basis.

Social Security consults with a Listing of Impairments, which is a list of severe impairments with criteria which must be met. Traumatic brain injuries are evaluated under listing 11.18. Social Security will determine that you meet this requirement if you have a disorganization of motor function in at least two extremities which results in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, or a marked limitation in physical function along with understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or adapting or managing oneself. If you do not meet the requirements of the listing, Social Security will evaluate your functional limits in physical activities as well as mental activities. Social Security will apply these limitations to determine if you can perform your past work, and if not, whether you can perform any other work. If there is no work you are able to perform as a result of your traumatic brain injury limitations, you will be found disabled.

Hiring an attorney can help with the process

Living with a traumatic brain injury can make managing your day to day affairs very difficult, and the Social Security disability application process can often be very stressful. Give us a call at LaBovick Law Group at (561) 625-8400 for help with applying for the benefits you need.

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