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Social Security Disabilities Benefits after a Traumatic Brain Injury

How to Qualify

After a serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, people may be unable to work, which can cause much anxiety about how they will pay living expenses. Anyone who has worked in the past but can't work anymore because of an injury or illness, can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits. As long as a person has worked in the past, and they expect that they won't be able to work for at least a year because of their injury or illness, they are eligible to file a claim for disability benefits. When they submit a claim to the Social Security Administration (SSA), they will also need to show that they meet the SSA's medical requirements for the claim to be approved.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits

SSA has very specific requirements for each condition or injury that qualifies someone to receive benefits. All conditions that qualify for benefits, and the special requirements, are listed in the SSA's Blue Book. The listing for a traumatic brain injury says that a person must show documentation that they:

  • Are unable to control the movement of at least two extremities, which can be either an arm and a leg, two arms, or two legs for at least three consecutive months after the injury. This must result in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while standing or walking, to stand up from a seated position, or to use the arms.

Or they must show that they have a marked physical limitation in any one of these areas:

  • Thinking (problems understanding, remembering, or applying information)
  • Interacting with others (social problems)
  • Finishing tasks (problems with concentration, persistence, or speed)
  • Regulating emotions and controlling behavior (such as problems with responding to demands, adapting to changes, and being aware of normal hazards)

In order to show that a person meets the listing requirements, they will need to submit as much medical evidence as possible. X-rays, blood tests, cognitive tests, MRIs, and PET scans can all help prove that they meet these requirements. They can also submit statements from teachers, past employers, social workers, case workers, counselors, or anyone else who can speak to their current limitations.

Medical Vocational Allowance

What happens if a person doesn't meet the strict requirements set by SSA? That happens quite frequently. If a person doesn't meet the Blue Book requirements but they also can't work, they can ask for a Medical Vocational Allowance exception. To get it this exception, a person's doctor will have to submit a form called a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. This document is where a person's doctor can write in detail about the injuries or limitations that they have as to how they limit the ability to work. Submit the RFC along with the medical records and claim forms, and SSA will decide if they are still eligible for benefits.

Applying for Benefits

A person can submit a claim for disability benefits and submit all of their supporting evidence, including an RFC, if one is available, through SSA's website. After the claim is submitted, it will take SSA three to five months to get back to that person with a decision.