Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when the head suddenly hits an object, suffers an impact, or when an object pierces the skull causing brain damage. The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage. Often, TBIs are not immediately obvious.
Traumatic brain injuries have emerged as a leading physical condition among veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI while on active military duty, contact an experienced attorney at our firm for help with filing a veterans’ traumatic brain injury claim for disability benefits.
The leading causes of traumatic brain injuries include bullets, explosions, falls, motor vehicle crashes, and assaults. The widespread use of improvised explosive devices, such as roadside bombs in recent conflicts, increases the likelihood that military personnel will be exposed to blasts that could cause a TBI.
Blasts are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries for military personnel in war zones. Among the servicemembers medically evacuated between January 2003 and June 2007 from combat theaters in Iraq or Afghanistan to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 30 percent had sustained some form of TBI, according to the Defense and Veterans’ Brain Injury Center.
The symptoms of traumatic brain injuries can vary greatly from mild cases that involve confusion or being dazed, to severe cases that may involve an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia. With mild TBIs, which are known as concussions, there may be no visible head injury. Symptoms can be subtle and similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The injury can be serious, nonetheless.
Mild traumatic brain injuries can have lasting effects on a veteran’s ability to return to work. For example, veterans may experience physical symptoms including:
A former servicemember with a traumatic brain injury may become eligible for VA disability based on either a professional diagnosis immediately following head trauma that occurred during active-duty service, a professional diagnosis following honorable discharge, or a compensation and pension exam requested by the VA. The VA defines the severity of a TBI’s residual effects and the compensation a veteran may be eligible to receive in accordance with 38 C.F.R. §5.124a, focusing on three major criteria: impairment of cognitive functions like memory and concentration, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and physical limitations such as seizures, imbalance, or significant pain.
If the VA determines that an applicant has suffered a TBI but is not disabled to the point that he or she qualifies for disability compensation, it will give the vet a zero percent disability rating. Conversely, if a TBI significantly impairs a former servicemember’s ability to perform tasks associated with gainful employment and/or day-to-day living, the VA may assign him or her a disability rating of 10 percent, 40 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent.
Notably, in October 2008, the VA revised its regulations regarding TBIs. Letters went out to approximately 32,000 veterans notifying them that their disability rating for traumatic brain injuries could potentially increase, even though their symptoms may not have changed. If you believe you may qualify for VA TBI benefits under these new regulations, scheduling a meeting with a veterans’ disability lawyer may be in your best interests.
In many situations, former servicemembers who qualify for disability compensation for a service-connected TBI also qualify for additional benefits based on the secondary effects of their injury. In other words, if a TBI causes a former servicemember to develop a mental illness or disorder, that “secondary” illness may qualify for additional VA benefits.
As of January 2014, the VA presumes a service connection for five specific conditions that a veteran may be diagnosed with after being diagnosed with a service-connected TBI:
If you think you may be eligible for disability benefits on the basis of a traumatic brain injury, call or send us an email today for a free consultation. We can offer guidance throughout a veterans’ traumatic brain injury claim, and we do not charge unless we are successful in obtaining disability benefits on your behalf.