Brain Injury and SSD Benefits
January 11th, 2017 by Attorney John Colvin
In order to collect Social Security Disability benefits, people with brain injuries must provide significant evidence that their condition meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. But people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may experience a wide range of symptoms – confusion, memory loss, impairment of motor skills– that interfere with their ability to apply for benefits.
Often, the SSA denies initial claims for disability. When that happens, the applicant may start the appeals process. Although people with a TBI may be deserving of SSD benefits, the appeals process is so daunting, they might become frustrated and give up.
On their own, applying for SSD benefits or pursuing an appeal may be impossible for brain-injured people. But with legal help, they may be able to get the benefits they need without worrying about meeting deadlines and collecting paperwork. An experienced SSD attorney can handle all those tasks, as well as appear at hearings and present evidence and arguments for an award of benefits on behalf of the client.
How the SSA Judges TBI
The term “brain injury” applies to any type of brain damage caused by a blow to the head, or a sudden and violent shift in momentum in which the brain is damaged when it makes contact with the skull. Brain injuries range from mild concussion, a temporary condition that resolves with time, to two types of complete and permanent loss of consciousness: persistent vegetative state and coma.
When a person has suffered a TBI and has not permanently lost consciousness, the SSA generally requires at least three months of post-injury evidence that the brain injury is severe enough to prohibit that person from working. The applicant must be able to prove that:
- For at least three months, motor function in at least two extremities has been severely limited, interfering with the ability to stand from a seated position, with balance while standing or walking, or the ability to use the upper extremities
- Significant impairment of physical function, and, for at least three months, marked limitation in one of these mental abilities:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information
- Interacting with others
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
- Adapting or managing oneself.
It’s important to note that for each of those mental impairments, there are additional criteria that must be met. However, there is no specific formula for proving your disability. You provide as much documentation as possible, and the SSA makes a decision that’s based on the evidence, but is also subjective, to some degree.
The SSA disability determination process is not an exact science. Sometimes, claims reviewers – burdened by a backlog of applications – deny benefits to people who truly need them, based on a technicality. And sometimes, reviewers incorrectly apply or interpret disability determination rules.
Help for Families
In many instances, when a person suffers a TBI, his or her family assumes the task of applying for SSD benefits. Family members may be better equipped to handle the logistics of applying for benefits, but it’s still a complicated and frustrating process.
John R. Colvin, Attorney at Law, has helped people with brain injuries, and their families, apply for SSD benefits. He has also handled SSD appeals for people throughout Tennessee and Alabama. If you need help with your TBI claim, or if you have any questions about this topic, call 1-931-962-1044 or submit this online form.