Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits After a Traumatic Brain Injury

You were confused when you woke up at St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, surrounded by beeping machines and strange voices. That confusion continued as you spent the next several weeks there, being shuffled from floor to floor to treat the symptoms of your traumatic brain injury (TBI). Now that you have been discharged and told to take it easy, you’re wondering how “easy” your doctors expect living with a brain injury to be. You’re still not the same person you were before the accident—so should you try to go back to the same job as if nothing has happened?

When Will Social Security Grant Disability Payments for a Head Injury?

In most cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will want to wait until you have reached a medically stable point before you may be considered for disability benefits. This means that the physical wounds of your injury have healed completely or reached a stage where further physical improvement is unlikely. For this reason, patients may not receive benefits until:

  • Three months after injury. Many neurological impairments, such as aphasia or bodily movement disturbances, are evident within the first three months after the accident has occurred. While these effects may show soon after the injury, they are not always permanent, and the SSA may wait an additional three months to see if your condition has improved.
  • Six months after injury. In most cases, the SSA will make a definitive ruling on your future condition six months after your injury has occurred. You should continue to send documentation of any mental impairments that you experience throughout your recovery, no matter how slight. Many brain injuries do not have immediate effects, and even if your cognitive abilities and mood were normal after the accident, they may deteriorate over time.
  • One year after injury. Even if your disability application for a TBI has been denied, you may appeal the decision if you are experiencing work limitations a year after the accident. Memory lapses, post-traumatic stress, and complications of your recovery can all affect your long-term ability to live and work under the limitations of your injury.

What Do I Need to Appeal Social Security’s Decision?

It is important to appeal any denial you receive. If your condition has gotten worse in any way—if you are unable to sleep, experience anxiety, or have increased difficulty communicating with others, you should gather medical evidence to support your claims. You can ask for copies of treatment plans from a speech pathologist, primary doctor, or any other Lincoln physician who has seen you in order to help with your recovery.

Want to know more about getting the funds you need after a serious accident? Read our free guide, 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case, or click the contact link on this page to ask us a question.