As researchers have studied the after effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), they’ve found a connection between TBIs and a greater risk for stroke. In 2013, a study in Neurology journal reported that there may be an over 30 percent greater risk of stroke compared to patients who’ve suffered trauma that was not associated with an injury to the brain.

When the head suffers a violent blow or is punctured by some type of sharp object, a person can suffer a TBI. Most TBIs are mild and heal by themselves. But some are severe and can cause significant damage to the brain. The swift movement of the brain inside the skull can cause short-term loss or serious trauma where the brain may bruise, bleed, or swell.

A stroke occurs when your brain doesn’t get enough blood. If that blood supply is blocked or interrupted, your brain won’t get the necessary nutrients and oxygen—and this will cause brain cells to die. Typically, a stroke is a blocked blood vessel that decreases Stroke Text Next to a Stethoscope blood flow to the brain, or it’s a brain hemorrhage.

Either of these two conditions alone can be debilitating, but together, they may be completely disabling. Both TBIs and strokes are responsible for serious disability in adults who are under the age of 65—20 percent experience a stroke, and 40 percent experience a TBI. Following a stroke, approximately 75 percent of patients face after effects and additional medical problems—some of these make it impossible for the patient to work. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes TBIs and stroke in its “Blue Book” listing of impairments. If you’ve experienced a TBI and then suffered a stroke, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Types of Stroke

There are three types of strokes: an ischemic stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, and a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Each of these has distinct symptoms and characteristics and is discussed below:

Ischemic Stroke

Approximately 85 percent of stroke patients suffer an ischemic stroke. This type of stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is severely reduced due to a narrowing or blockage in the arteries. The most common ischemic strokes include:

  • Thrombotic stroke. This type of stroke happens if a blood clot—thrombus—develops in any of the arteries carrying blood to your brain. There are a variety of causes for a clot. Fatty deposits or plaque can build up in your arteries and reduce the flow of blood to your brain; or, you may have other artery conditions.
  • Embolic stroke. This type of stroke also involves a blood clot or other debris that develops in some other area of your body—often in your heart. When this clot or debris moves through your bloodstream, it can get caught in brain arteries that are narrow. This blood clot is called an embolus.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

This type of stroke happens when there’s a rupture or leak in the brain’s blood vessels. High blood pressure, weak spots in the walls of your blood vessels, and overtreatment through the use of anticoagulants can all result in a hemorrhagic stroke. The types of hemorrhagic stroke include:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage. This occurs when a diseased blood vessel inside the brain bursts, causing blood leakage within the brain. The sudden pressure increase in the brain can damage the brain cells that surround the blood.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage. This is also known as an aneurysm. It happens if the arteries that are on or near the brain surface burst and “spill” into the area between the skull and the surface of the brain. Often, a sudden, extreme headache will signal this bleeding.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is also known as a ministroke. It’s characterized by a short period of time with symptoms similar to regular stroke. Typically lasting less than five minutes, a TIA occurs when there’s a temporary reduction in the blood to your brain. 

Similar to an ischemic stroke, a blood clot or debris gets lodged in an artery and blocks blood from getting to your brain. Usually the block is temporary, and symptoms of a TIA don’t last long.

We Can Help

After applying for disability benefits for a stroke, it often takes the SS additional time to make a determination on your claim. The Social Security Administration delays stroke claims for at least three months because it’s not possible to measure the long-term limitations of a stroke until some time has passed.

If you have suffered a TBI and are disabled in the aftermath of your stroke, and your symptoms prevent you from sustaining gainful employment, 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


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