Disability Benefits for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries
Published May 16, 2018
Invisible injuries can be just as serious and life-altering as more obvious ailments. Unfortunately, for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, it can be difficult to prove to others just how much of an impact the injury has had on their daily life. Thankfully, if you have sustained a brain injury during your military service, you may be entitled to benefits. Recovering such benefits, however, can be difficult. Keep reading to understand more about military TBI, how they are rated, and how you can go about seeking the compensation you deserve.
How Brain Injuries Occur
Though often associated with professional athletes, brain injuries can occur from a variety of different activities and accidents. Slips, trips, and falls are frequently to blame for civilian brain injuries, as are car accidents. Of course, all of these accidents can happen to those serving in the military, too. Generally, though, most traumatic brain injuries sustained while on active duty come from IED explosions and combat.
Any time a person hits their head, or their neck is jostled back and forth suddenly, a brain injury can occur. Whiplash, for instance, can lead to a closed head injury, in which the brain slams against the skull, causing serious damage. Because such injuries rarely have any outward signs of damage, they can be tough to diagnose.
In earlier times, such incidents were often dismissed as a person “getting their bell rung,” with soldiers frequently advised simply to “shake off” their injury. Modern medicine has come a long way since then, and society now recognizes the severity of such accidents. Even with medical advancements and an increased understanding of the human brain, it can be difficult to properly diagnose a brain injury. Effects can show up instantly or take many months to become evident.
Military service members are frequently deployed to places where they are at risk of exposure to suicide bombers, IEDs, mortar rounds, and land mines. Even standard operational and training exercises can be physically demanding and sometimes potentially dangerous. Because of these factors, those serving in the military are more likely to sustain a brain injury than their civilian peers.
Rating Brain Injuries
Rating injuries of any kind can be difficult, but TBI can be even more complicated than the average injury. Some people may suffer multiple brain injuries, but the overall condition of the brain is rated as a single condition. It’s important to keep in mind that your injuries must stem from your time in the service. Any injuries not related to your service will not be eligible for benefits. By establishing a connection to your service, you up the odds of receiving an appropriate rating for your TBI.
In order to rate your TBI, the VA will look to several different data points to determine whether your injury is mild, moderate, or severe. They will examine MRI, PET, or other brain scans, as well as the length of time you experienced amnesia, loss of consciousness, or other altered mental state. The VA will also look at the severity of the following ten criteria:
- Memory impairment
- Altered judgment
- Diminished motor skills
- Diminished social skills
- Spatial disorientation
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Diminished communication skills
- Other symptoms
For each category above, the VA will rate the severity level on a scale from zero to total in increments of 0 percent, 10 percent, 40 percent, 70 percent, and 100 percent. Any symptom’s severity rated as total will equate to a 100 percent disability rating. The same symptoms, however, cannot be used to rate multiple disorders.
Brain injuries can be difficult to rate properly. In many cases, additional compensation may be available if you suffer a secondary condition because of your TBI. For example, if your brain injury causes depression, you may be entitled to additional benefits. If you receive a TBI VA rating you disagree with, you may choose to appeal the decision.
Seeking Legal Help for a TBI Appeal
If you have been denied benefits from the VA, you may want to consider appealing the decision. The appeals process consists of several additional independent reviews of the claim as you and your representative submit additional evidence or a new argument. Many veterans opt to work with an attorney during this phase of the process. Should you need help with your initial claim, consider reaching out to a Veterans Service Organization in your area for resources.
Connect with an Attorney Today
Veterans Law Group has spent more than 20 years representing veterans and their families. Committed to getting you the benefits you deserve, our team is made up of some of the most respected advocates in the field. Whether you’re in the early stages of the appeals process or need to call in reinforcement as you continue your battle with the VA, we’re ready to help. Request your free consultation today, and someone from our team will be in touch as soon as possible.