Many Americans suffer severe injuries or develop serious medical conditions that render them unable to work. Disability benefits exist to provide these individuals the means to survive and cover basic living expenses. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are among the most serious wounds a person can suffer, and any type of TBI can involve permanent or long-lasting effects that prevent a person from returning to work. Anyone who has suffered a TBI and is facing long-term difficulty and inability to work should investigate their eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.
People who suffer TBIs often face not only cognitive impairment or difficulty but also physical issues arising from damage to the brain. Certain TBIs may cause the victim to lose the use of other parts of the body, leading to speech problems, sensory issues, mood swings, and other symptoms that would make typical employment difficult or impossible.
How to Apply for Disability Benefits
Anyone who wishes to apply for disability benefits will need to make sure their condition is eligible for Social Security. “Traumatic Brain Injury” may not be on the list, but the Disability Determination Services (DDS) evaluates TBI disability claims using criteria from other conditions, such as cerebral trauma, stroke, seizure, organic mental disorders, and other neurological conditions.
Whenever the DDS evaluates a TBI claim, one of the major factors in their determination will be the applicant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), or the limits of the applicant’s brain function after sustaining a TBI. The DDS will evaluate the extent of the applicant’s ability to complete the basic functions his or her employment requires. If the DDS determines that an applicant does not possess sufficient RFC to pursue employment, they will most likely approve disability benefits.
The DDS will need to have documentation from the applicant’s doctors that not only provides a coherent diagnosis but also details the extent of the applicant’s symptoms, functional restrictions imposed by those symptoms, and any other medical evidence necessary for proving the applicant no longer possesses the ability to work due to his or her TBI. The applicant should provide documentation for any and all medical issues related to the TBI, including emergency room records, clinic notes, doctors’ notes, x-ray and MRI results, neuropsychological testing results, IQ testing, and written statements from friends, coworkers, close relatives, or anyone else involved with the applicant’s TBI.
Determinations and Collecting Benefits
If the DDS evaluates a claim and decides an applicant’s RFC is too severe for the applicant to return to his or her previous job but not severe enough to warrant full disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will assess the applicant’s work history and other factors to determine if less physically or mentally demanding jobs exist. If so, the DDS may provide a medical-vocational allowance so the applicant may pursue more appropriate work opportunities.
One of the best ways to improve the chances of approval for disability benefits is to provide the DDS with as much documentation as possible. The more evidence an applicant has to establish his or her claim, the better. An attorney with experience in dealing with Social Security can be an asset in these situations. A reliable West Virginia personal injury lawyer can help applicants gather the evidence necessary to build a strong disability application and improve the applicant’s chances of securing benefits.