When you suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it’s possible for the symptoms to be temporary and the injury to heal on its own. This is often seen with a mild TBI—often referred to as a concussion. But sometimes, a TBI is severe and can damage the brain in significant ways. When you suffer a violent blow to the head or an outside object punctures the skull and enters the brain, the injury can cause brain damage and dysfunction. Because there is a swift back and forth shaking of the brain inside the skull, it can lead to a mild trauma with a short loss of consciousness, or it may lead to a serious trauma with loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes. You may even experience memory loss longer than 24 hours. It’s possible for the brain to bleed, swell, or bruise.
Coping with the aftermath of a TBI can be challenging and frustrating, but TBI patients must also be aware of the increased risk of suffering a stroke following a brain injury. A recent 2013 study in the journal Neurology shows that TBIs may be associated with an over 30 percent greater risk of having a stroke than other trauma patients who suffer injuries that didn’t involve the brain. Together, TBIs and strokes cause significant disability in people of working age—40 percent of TBIs and 20 percent of strokes occurring in those adults who are younger than 65.
A stroke is usually a brain hemorrhage or a blocked blood vessel that reduces blood flow to the brain and results in injury. After a stroke, you may experience various medical issues, including muscle weakness that often impacts one side of the body, numbness and loss of sensations, as well as difficulty seeing, walking, or speaking. Some people only experience these problems short term; however, sometimes the damage is irreversible. Approximately 75 percent of stroke patients have some type of medical issue following the stroke, and some of these issues make it impossible for the patient to work.
If you’ve experienced a TBI and then suffered a stroke, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
What’s the Connection?
While it’s still not clear why there may be a connection between head trauma and stroke, some researchers believe it could be a “cause and effect” type of relationship. It’s possible that after a TBI, an artery could be injured in some way. Dr. John Volpi, co-director of the Eddy Scurlock Stroke Center in Houston, suggests the likely connection might be that “when the inner tube within the vessel comes apart because it gets a tiny tear from trauma, it allows the blood to push its way into the two layers, stopping or slowing down the flow of blood, which can cause blockage.”
How Timing Affects a Disability Decision by the Social Security Administration
TBIs and strokes are cited in the “Blue Book”—the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of impairments. The disability listing for a stroke is found under the term “Vascular insult to the brain” under Neurological impairments in section 11.04. If your condition and symptoms meet the criteria for these listings, you will likely be approved for disability benefits.
However, timing is important when making a disability claim for a stroke. If you apply soon after you suffer a stroke, the SSA won’t immediately provide an answer about your claim. It often takes the SSA several months to make a determination about an initial claim for any condition. But with stroke cases, it can take even longer. The SSA delays these claims for at least three months because the after effects and any limitations aren’t easily measured in a short period following the stroke. This is also true for disability claims for heart attacks. Because each recovery is unique and individual, and a patient’s age, other medical conditions, and risk factors can influence that recovery, the SSA does not have reliable data about how the health of a stroke victim will improve over time.
We Can Help
If you have suffered a TBI and are disabled in the aftermath of your stroke, and your symptoms are so severe they prevent you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. However, we understand that finding the right kind of help isn’t always easy. At Cuddigan Law, we know the rules and restrictions that govern disability for TBIs and strokes. Call us at (402) 933-5405 for a free evaluation of your case.