How will a TBI change my life, and can I receive Social Security disability benefits?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when the head is shaken or hit in a violent way. For example, if you are in a vehicle accident, suffer a slip and fall, are involved in a sports-related collision, or are subjected to a blast—specifically veterans who Art Sculpture Shaped Into a Head experience an explosion from an improvised explosive device (IED)—you may suffer a TBI. When a forceful blow moves the brain back and forth inside the skull, it can cause contusions or bruising. The quick head movement can cause stress that damages brain tissues because nerve fibers get pulled apart.

When a person experiences a blow to the head, the result can be a concussion or a closed head injury. Most often, a concussion is not life threatening, so it’s considered a “mild” brain injury. Usually, a person suffering a concussion will feel confused or dazed and only lose consciousness for a brief period. However, there are also moderate and severe TBIs that are much more serious. In 2010, TBIs were associated with approximately 2.5 million visits to the emergency room, hospitalizations, and deaths. Thirty percent of all U.S. injury-related deaths are due to TBIs, and nearly half of patients with a TBI require surgery to repair or remove a contusion or hematoma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that over five million people in the U.S. have long-term or life-altering disabilities because of a TBI.

Questions About TBIs

Doctors typically classify TBIs according to their severity: mild, moderate, or severe. Most people experience mild TBIs, and their symptoms improve over time. However, each brain injury is unique, and symptoms of a TBI are different for each individual and for each part of the brain that’s affected during the injury. Because the consequences and end result of each TBI type can be varied and individualized, there are many questions about what happens after experiencing a blow to the head. Here are some of the most common questions about TBIs and some general answers to those questions:

What types of injuries cause brain trauma?

There are typically four types of injury that can cause a TBI:

  • A closed head injury. This occurs when the force to the head causes brain tissue to strike the sides of the skull. This impact can cause bruising, bleeding, neurochemical changes, and a buildup of pressure or fluid.
  • A penetrating injury. This occurs when some type of object pierces the skull and harms the brain. This can include gunshot wounds, open fractures, or any foreign object entering the brain. Considered life-threatening, a penetrating injury requires immediate medical attention.
  • An anoxic injury. Also called cerebral hypoxia, this type of injury happens when oxygen is cut off or reduced for four minutes, causing brain cells to die. After five minutes without oxygen, a person can suffer permanent anoxic brain injury. Anoxic brain injury is life-threatening, and the longer a person suffers oxygen loss, the more serious the brain injury.
  • A toxic injury. This type of brain injury happens through exposure to toxic chemicals—chemicals that can kill or damage brain cells because they’re able to cross the blood-brain barriers.

How will a TBI affect me?

A person who suffers a TBI may experience thought-related changes, physical changes, and personality or behavioral changes. Depending on the severity of the brain injury, he may experience none or many of the following changes:

Thought-related changes:

  • Shorter attention span
  • Problems with memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired reading and writing skills
  • Difficulty with problem solving
  • Impaired communication skills

Physical changes:

  • Paralysis—full or partial
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems with muscle coordination
  • Feelings of weakness
  • Traumatic epilepsy—seizures

Personality and behavioral changes:

  • Problems controlling emotions
  • Increased feelings of irritation or frustration
  • Problems with social skills
  • Severe mood swings
  • Feelings of depression

If  I have a TBI, can I receive Social Security Disability?

If you suffered a TBI, finding the right kind of help isn’t always easy. At Cuddigan Law, we understand the rules and restrictions that govern Social Security disability for TBIs. We know that TBI disability cases are challenging, but we also know it’s possible to win them. Call us at (402) 933-5405 for a free evaluation of your case.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska