Traumatic Brain Injury and Veterans’ Benefits

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is often called the “signature” wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

TBI among veterans was often caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but the condition can also be caused by vehicle accidents, falls and other physically traumatic events.

Even concussions, a milder form of TBI, can produce long-term changes in thinking and personality. A severe TBI may cause permanent brain damage that severely disrupts a veteran’s ability to live a normal life.

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A TBI’s effects on the brain are notoriously difficult to detect. It should come as no surprise that the VA – which evaluates TBI’s impact on a veteran based on current symptoms rather than the severity of the original injury – makes errors in a significant number of TBI claims.

A report by the Office of the Inspector General found that claims related to TBI were consistently mishandled due to evaluators’ inability to understand medical reports and make accurate determinations. While the VA has updated its diagnosis criteria to make it easier for TBI victims to receive disability pay, major hurdles remain.

Our South Carolina veterans’ disability attorneys at Joye Law Firm want to help you obtain the benefits you deserve for your service-related traumatic brain injury. Our team includes Patrick Jennings, a VA-accredited disability representative. Together, our lawyers have nearly 250 years of combined litigation experience.

To receive a free and confidential claim review, call Joye Law Firm or send us a message today.

How the VA Determines a TBI Disability Rating

Veterans who were not dishonorably discharged and suffered a service-related TBI may be eligible to receive a monthly tax-free cash benefit to compensate for loss of earning capacity and other services, such as vocational training and medical and rehabilitation services.

To be eligible for a cash benefit, a minimum disability rating of 10 percent is generally required. A disability rating up to 100 percent is possible. The higher the rating, the higher the rate of compensation.

When assigning a TBI disability rating to a veteran, the VA looks at three main areas of dysfunction: cognitive, emotional/behavioral and physical. Each of these dysfunction types may require evaluation.

More critically, there must be residual effects (recurring symptoms) in order to receive a disability rating. This includes so-called “subjective symptoms” – such as headache, fatigue and insomnia – that may not be supported by medical evidence.

Illnesses Related to Service-Connected TBI

Criticism of how the VA understands and rates TBI disability led to a rule change. Under the new rule, a veteran who is diagnosed with TBI and who is also diagnosed with any of five other ailments may have an easier time receiving additional disability pay.

The TBI-associated ailments now recognized by the VA include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Unprovoked seizures
  • Certain types of dementia
  • Depression
  • Hormone deficiency diseases

Certain restrictions apply, and these illnesses won’t in every case be considered a proximate result of service-connected TBI.

Thousands of Veterans with TBI Aren’t Diagnosed

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports that 266,810 soldiers from 2000-2012 were diagnosed with TBI. And yet the VA has only identified around 54,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have TBI.

This disconnect may be explained by not only the way in which the VA evaluates TBI, but also by the VA’s error rate in handling claims. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, of the 870,000 claims awaiting a decision, 31 percent will be denied, and 60 percent of these denials will be in error. More than 7 percent of claims will simply be misplaced, and another 4 percent will be lost.

Get Help with Your Veterans’ Disability Claim

A mistake at any stage of the VA disability claims process can result in you not receiving the money and other benefits you need to successfully transition back to civilian life.

Let Joye Law Firm assist you with your veterans’ disability claim. Call Joye Law Firm now or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation. You’ve served our country admirably. Now let us serve you.

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