man with head injuryMilitary personnel on active duty experience combat situations that put them at risk for life-altering injuries. Particularly, they face the threat of bombs and improvised explosive devices (IED) that, when detonated, can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Training exercises are also a primary cause of TBIs in the military.

According to the Department of Defense (DoD), over 380,000 soldiers suffered TBIs from 2000 to 2018. Nearly 47,000 of these brain injuries were defined as moderate, severe, or penetrating. Additionally, military personnel sustain TBIs during training activities, with about 80% of new TBIs occurring in a non-deployed environment.

TBIs not only cause brain trauma, but they can also cause eye injuries and eye disorders that may not present until after a soldier returns home. If you’re a veteran seeking disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for an eye condition, you may want to consider whether a TBI may be the root cause.

Understanding TBIs

A TBI is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “an injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” It can occur after a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head or because of a penetrating head injury.” According to the CDC, there are three types of TBIs:

  • A mild TBI/concussion. While this type of TBI can be caused by a blow to the head, it can also be caused by a forceful strike to the body that makes the brain inside the skull move back and forth quickly. This sudden and swift movement can twist the brain inside the skull and damage brain cells. The veteran who suffers a mild TBI may experience a short period of lost consciousness or brain bruising, swelling, and/or bleeding. The symptoms of a mild TBI may impact a veteran’s ability to problem solve, concentrate, learn, and think.
  • A moderate TBI. This type of TBI is more often caused by a penetrating injury or a more severe blow to the head. Moderate TBIs are often a result of falls, gunshot wounds, and vehicle crashes. A veteran with a moderate TBI may need continual care, which can create a huge financial impact not only on the veteran but their family members as well.
  • A severe TBI. This type of TBI is characterized by a state of confusion or disorientation that lasts more than 24 hours. Usually, the veteran loses consciousness for over 24 hours and/or experiences memory loss for more than a week.

The Link Between TBIs and Eye Conditions

Depending on the severity of the TBI and the part of the brain that was affected, a TBI can damage portions of the brain that help manage visual processing and/or perception. Vision problems can result following the TBI, including:

  • Visual field loss. A veteran can experience complete or partial vision loss if they suffer a TBI. How much loss of visual field occurs is determined by the parts of the brain that were impacted by the head injury. This loss of vision may make the veteran prone to falling or cause them to bump into objects.   
  • Eye focus. A veteran may find that after a TBI, they’ll experience blurred vision, and they won’t be able to readily shift eye focus between objects far and near.
  • Eye teaming. After a TBI, veterans may find that their eyes no longer work as a “team.” This can cause them to see ineffectively and/or have double vision. Specifically, military personnel who suffer a mild TBI after experiencing one or more blasts may deal with “oculomotor or binocular dysfunction.” This makes it difficult for their eyes to coordinate with each other. 

Contact Cuddigan Law for Eye Injury VA Disability

If you suffer from an eye injury or condition you believe is due to a TBI you experienced while in the military, you may qualify for disability benefits. Let Cuddigan Law assist you in determining if you are eligible. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help you document your eye injury or eye disorder and work with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. If an eye injury you received during military service is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.

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