Understanding Veteran TBIs and Obtaining VA Disability for Them

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a blow, bump, or jolt to the head that disrupts normal brain function. The outside force and rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head will often cause the brain to move back and forth within the skull. The stress that occurs from this rapid motion can damage brain tissue because nerve fibers get pulled apart. If the force is strong Black and White Results From a Brain Scanenough, the skull can break and directly injure the brain.

If you suffer an injury to the brain, you may experience a number of changes in consciousness. You may feel confused and disoriented, or you may even go into a coma. You might also lose your memory about what happened immediately before and after the injury. A TBI can range from mild to severe, but not all head injuries cause a TBI.

Each year in the U.S., over 1.5 million people experience a TBI, and over 50,000 of them die because of it. For military personnel, blasts or explosions in war zones are the primary cause of a TBI. These head injuries also contribute to many cases of permanent disability, and veterans who sustain a TBI can be eligible for disability from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Facts About Veterans and TBIs

Over 20 percent of U.S. troops wounded in combat sustained a TBI. Here is a brief look at data regarding the occurrence of TBIs within the military:

  • The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen an increase in the occurrence of veteran TBIs.
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) and Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center compared combat casualties due to TBIs between those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and those in Vietnam. The percentage of casualties caused by TBIs in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts was nearly double the number in Vietnam.
  • The main causes of TBIs in Afghanistan and Iraq service personnel are blasts and explosions, gunshot wounds, and vehicle accidents.  
  • The symptoms of a TBI last longer for veterans than for civilians. Some veterans are reported to have symptoms for up to two years after a TBI.

Often, a veteran who experiences a mild TBI will recover completely. But it’s possible for veterans to develop the following symptoms after a mild TBI:

  • Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
  • Problems with memory loss
  • Problems with feeling overwhelmed or confused
  • Problems with light-headedness or feeling dizzy
  • Difficulty making decisions or being able to solve problems
  • Problems with getting irritated or angered easily

If a veteran experiences a severe TBI, he may suffer from more serious symptoms such as speech problems, cognitive issues, motor and sensory problems, seizures, and balance and mood issues. Sometimes, TBI symptoms aren’t immediately obvious. Because they often differ for each individual and can be vague and unclear, it’s important to see a doctor early on because these symptoms can cause chronic problems if they’re not treated by a professional.

New Regulations for VA TBI Disability

In January 2014, a new VA regulation was set forth to help veterans receive benefits for a TBI. Veterans who suffer from a TBI and are diagnosed with one of five specific conditions now have an easier time receiving disability. The new regulation included these five conditions after a report by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a connection between moderate and severe TBIs and these illnesses.

When the regulation was finalized, the VA recognized the following diseases as “presumed service-connected” to TBIs:

  • Parkinson’s disease. This disease is presumed a service-connected condition related to a TBI if it’s diagnosed following a moderate or severe brain injury.
  • Seizures. The VA will recognize seizures if no cause has been found for them after the veteran experiences a moderate or severe TBI.
  • Certain dementias. The VA will recognize these dementias if the veteran is diagnosed within 15 years following a moderate or severe TBI.
  • Depression. The VA recognizes depression if it’s diagnosed within one year of a mild TBI or three years of a moderate or severe TBI.
  • Hormone deficiency diseases. Certain diseases of the pituitary and hypothalamus glands are eligible for disability if they’re diagnosed within 12 months of a moderate or severe TBI.

At Cuddigan Law, we understand that veterans need and deserve disability benefits. That’s why we provide free information to help veterans with their claims. Download our free book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or call us today at 402-933-5405 to discuss your disability case.

 

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