Traumatic Brain Injury: Why It Can Be So Disabling

Traumatic Brain Injury: Why It Can Be So Disabling

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of the TBI may range from mild to severe, with severe cases sometimes resulting in an extended loss of consciousness or amnesia following the traumatic event.

Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury

According to the Center for Disease Control, TBI can impact the following brain functions:

  • Thinking, such as memory or reasoning
  • Sensation, such as sight and balance
  • Language, including communicating and understanding
  • Emotion, including anxiety, depression, and personality changes

TBI can also increase the risk of conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other brain conditions that become more prevalent with age. 

Veterans and Traumatic Brain Injury

Thousands of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced TBI, making it a signature injury from these wars. Roadside bombs, firebombs, and other explosives used by insurgents are all potential causes of TBI for these service members.

Unfortunately, it has not always been easy for veterans to receive VA compensation for TBI and its residual effects. There are several reasons for this.

First, the symptoms of TBI overlap with other disabilities, such as PTSD, and veterans with TBI can also simultaneously experience PTSD. This may have resulted in a confusion of what was causing symptoms such as personality changes and depression.

Second, many symptoms of TBI are self-reported by the veteran. Symptoms such as headaches and dizziness cannot be tested for, so the veteran’s self-reported symptoms are the only evidence of a disability.

Finally, TBI has both physical and psychological symptoms.  Some veterans may feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they are having a mental health issue due to fear of being stigmatized.

Revised VA Standards for TBI

The VA revised the rating criteria for TBI in 2008 because it recognized the difficulties in diagnosing TBI. A veteran’s cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms need to be considered together when diagnosing and rating TBI. VA mishandled 24,000 traumatic brain injury claims between 2007 and 2015.  Due to VA’s error, these veterans were denied the opportunity to support their prior TBI claims with an adequate examination, and therefore may have been wrongly denied benefits.  If you applied for service-connected compensation for TBI and were denied between 2007 and 2015, you are able to reapply and you may receive a more favorable rating.

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick understands the unique challenges that arise when applying for VA compensation for a traumatic brain injury. We will work with you to get you the highest possible rating for your disability. Contact us for a free case evaluation of your TBI claim.

Category: Veterans Law

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