Social Security Disability for Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury can have a significant impact on your life. A serious brain injury can leave you unable to care for yourself and unable to work. You may be unable to communicate effectively, you may lose mobility, and you may not be able to lift, carry, or grasp things. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program under the direction of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
To be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits for a traumatic brain injury (tbi), you must meet the stringent guidelines of the SSA to be determined disabled and to qualify for monthly disability benefits. You must also have worked to earn sufficient credits and you must have paid in adequate taxes.
You can suffer traumatic brain injuries in a variety of ways, such as in a car accident, a work injury, or a fall. Your symptoms depend upon the severity of your injury and what part of your brain was injured. An injury may have left you unable to brush your hair, dress yourself, or feed yourself, let alone work to earn an adequate income. You may have to have help getting your daily activities done. You may have to be placed in a rehabilitation center for a while to try to improve your mobility and your communication skills or to undergo training so you can care for yourself.
Impacting Your Ability to Work
A traumatic brain injury can impact your ability to work in numerous ways. If your communication skills are impacted, you won’t be able to answer phones or communicate with coworkers effectively. Mobility problems may make you reposition yourself frequently, so you can’t stay in one position for long.
Traumatic brain injury can impact you like seizure disorders, strokes, cerebral trauma, and various neurological problems. Your case may be evaluated using the same criteria as organic mental disorders or neurological conditions, which is dependent upon your functioning and how your injury has impacted your abilities.
Numbness and tingling in your limbs can keep you from grasping, lifting, or carrying items. If you suffer from problems with your memory, maintaining concentration, or staying focused that can impact any kind of work duties. You may suffer from dizziness, headaches, confusion, or visual problems such as blurred vision that may impact almost any kind of work duties. You may be unable to move all your limbs or suffer from partial paralysis. This can impact your ability to work in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, administrative or other positions.
Limitations for Specific Jobs
Your limitations from a traumatic brain injury can be extensive. If you suffer memory loss or have difficulty concentrating, you may find that being able to work in an office setting, maintain records, or work in customer service would be impossible.
If you experience dizziness, blurred vision or fatigue, you won’t be able to handle work as a mechanic, do repairs as a maintenance employee, or handle assembly projects or work in a setting that involves inspecting products before they are shipped and sold. Numbness and pain can limit your ability to lift, carry, squat, or bend so you can’t work in manufacturing, assembly, or as a paramedic or nurse.
Traumatic brain injury can also keep you from being able to grasp small items or stay focused, so you can’t maintain records or do bookkeeping, serve as a court reporter, work in the legal profession, or be a medical doctor. Your communication problems will keep you from working in telemarketing, customer service, as a receptionist, or as a sales representative.
Your memory and communication challenges can prevent you from being a teacher, minister, journalist, or an accountant. Because of a traumatic brain injury, your abilities can be significantly limited and you can find yourself in a situation where you are unable to perform any kind of work duties.
How to Support Your Claim with Medical Evidence
Traumatic Brain Injuries encompass a wide range of injuries to the brain, and these injuries often have huge health ramifications that can impact all areas of your life even though the side effects of traumatic brain injuries don’t always present themselves immediately.
In order to evaluate your claim, the Social Security Administration will utilize the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, a comprehensive list of medical conditions that is commonly referred to as the Blue Book. The SSA will compare your diagnosis to the guidelines in the Blue Book to determine whether your condition warrants disability benefits.
Traumatic brain injuries are found in section 11.18 and are characterized by either an extreme or marked limitation in physical functions, lasting at least three months following the injury. To meet the criteria, you must ensure that the medical documentation you submit outlines your limitations.
When filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits with a traumatic brain injury, it is crucial to provide as much documentation as possible to support your claim. The most important piece of evidence is a medical report from your doctor outlining your diagnosis and treatment plan.
This report should outline a timeline of your diagnosis, the results of any associated lab work, imaging or surgeries you have completed, and your treatment plan. The treatment plan should include medication and physical therapy, along with any side effects you might be experiencing as a result of the diagnosis or treatment.
While the Social Security Administration will require you to sign a consent form to release information should they have further questions, they will not request test results from your doctors so you need to make sure that your application includes all available information so as to ensure that your application is processed as quickly as possible.
Qualifying with Traumatic Brain Injury Using the Medical-Vocational Allowance
Given the nature of traumatic brain injuries and the way in which symptoms and side effects tend to manifest themselves in different ways, you might not qualify for disability benefits through the Blue Book’s terms but you could still qualify for disability benefits through the medical-vocational allowance.
The medical-vocational allowance is a set of guidelines that determines whether or not your diagnosis will allow you to work in a modified capacity. The SSA will base their considerations upon your age, work history, education and your residual function capacity (RFC).
The key indicator for their determination is the RFC, which is your maximum capacity to work with your condition. If you can do your job on a modified basis, then you likely would not qualify for disability benefits, but if you are unable to work even after accommodations have been made for you, then the medical-vocational allowance will most likely apply.
The SSA will evaluate your ability to adjust to the exertional demands of work (walking, lifting, standing, sitting, carrying, pushing and pulling) as well as the nonexertional demands of work, which include mental, postural, manipulative, visual, communicative and environmental considerations.
In order to evaluate the claim, it is imperative to provide all relevant documentation of your condition in your application.
Trial Work Program
Since there are so many factors to consider with traumatic brain injuries, it can be difficult to make a determination about your residual function capacity without a trial work period.
The Social Security Administration has a program that allows applicants to work on a trial basis and still be considered disabled, and this is a good opportunity to see whether or not the effects of a traumatic brain injury will prevent you from working, either in your normal capacity or in a limited capacity.
The trial work period is ideal for people with traumatic brain injuries because it’s difficult to assess how working will be impacted. You could have light sensitivity, issues with memory or difficulty focusing on a given task. These things might not manifest until you go to work, or they might take time to manifest.
Applying for Benefits
You can apply for Social Security disability benefits online, by mail or in person. You can find the application on the SSA website or you can pick one up at your local SSA branch.
To apply online, first create an account on the SSA website and from there you will be able to access the application. The benefit to applying online is that your effective date will be the day you start your application, so if you are approved you could be entitled to back pay and your start day will coincide with the date you started working on your application.
When filing using a paper application, you can file protective filing statement, which is a letter to the SSA expressing your intention to file an application, so that your start date is reserved the same way as it is when filing online. This is helpful as it can take some time to gather all of the documentation you need.
If you are ready to apply for disability benefits because of your traumatic brain injury, there are several different approaches you may take to get the process underway. If you would prefer to start the process in-person, you can go the nearest SSA office and meet with a representative face-to-face. You can also start the process online or by calling toll-free 1-800-772-1213. You can enlist the assistance of an advocate or an attorney, which will improve your odds of being awarded benefits.