When one thinks of disabling medical conditions, one usually imagines a number of physical diagnoses. While many physical conditions do cause disability, it is also possible to receive disability benefits even if you are not physically restricted in any way – you can also receive benefits due to psychiatric or cognitive impairments, so long as they prevent you from performing your job duties. Many cognitive impairments that result in an inability to work are caused by traumatic brain injuries (“TBI”).
What Are Traumatic Brain Injuries?
TBIs are the result of a violent blow or injury to the head (also known as a concussion). Common causes include falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence, sports injuries, and explosive blasts. TBIs cause a number of significant physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms, including:
- Speech problems
- Loss of balance
- Blurred vision
- Memory issues
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Loss of balance
- Feeling depressed or anxious
In more serious cases involving loss of consciousness for an extended period, TBIs can result in persistent headaches, repeated vomiting and nausea, seizures, loss of coordination, severe confusion, agitation, and slurred speech.
Post-concussion syndrome (“PCS”) is another complication that can occur following a TBI – this refers to symptoms of a TBI that persist longer than expected after the initial head injury. Generally speaking, concussion symptoms last for about a week or so. However, they can last for as long as a year, sometimes even longer. It is also possible for TBI symptoms to be permanent following the initial injury.
Common Problems Facing Individuals Seeking Disability Benefits for Head Injuries
Any number of the symptoms listed above can serve as the basis for a short-term or long-term disability benefits claim if they occur on a frequent enough basis and/or in a severe fashion. In fact, headaches, fatigue, and inability to concentrate are a few of the more common symptoms experienced by disability claimants.
Moreover, regardless of occupation, it is difficult to perform one’s job duties if you suffer from cognitive problems with memory, learning, reasoning, judgment, and attention span. Most occupations also require some degree of executive functioning that can be diminished by a TBI, such as issues with problem-solving, multitasking, organization, planning, decision-making, and completing tasks. And all jobs require communication to some extent that may be impacted by TBI symptoms.
Disability insurers tend to be skeptical of TBI-related disabilities, largely because they may allege that the symptoms experienced by the claimant are self-reported or subjective in nature. Furthermore, some private disability policies have limitations for certain conditions (typically a maximum of two years) that may apply to certain TBI symptoms. Perhaps most commonly, however, insurers will seek and subsequently rely upon the medical opinion of a doctor who reviews your treatment records and opines you are capable of working without ever examining you.
How to File a Successful TBI-based Disability Claim
An individual seeking disability benefits for TBI symptoms will need to submit as much supporting evidence as possible to demonstrate to their insurer’s satisfaction that they are unable to perform the duties of their occupation. This evidence should include statements from your treating doctors detailing exactly why your TBI symptoms prevent you from working. The more specific these statements are, the better chance you have of succeeding. Your doctors should also document the verifiable symptoms they have observed over the course of your treatment, as well as any diagnostic testing measures (such as CT scans or MRIs) that can verify your diagnoses.
Another key piece of evidence at your disposal is to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation. This testing objectively measures the existence and severity of your cognitive impairment in a number of different abilities, including reading, language use, attention, processing speed, learning, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, and personality, among others. Neuropsychological evaluations are also helpful in the sense that you can undergo the testing again after a certain amount of time has passed. This allows you to objectively measure whether your cognitive abilities have improved, remained the same, or worsened since the previous testing.
If you suffered a traumatic brain injury and remain unable to work as a result, you should reach out to an experienced disability attorney who can get you the benefits you deserve. The attorneys at DeBofsky Law are equipped to do just that.