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Traumatic Brain Injuries & Head Injury Claims

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Noble men and women join the United States military knowing that injuries or even death may result from their service. When they return from active duty, they should receive adequate medical care for any service-related injuries.

For instance, many former servicemembers sustain traumatic brain injuries during their time in uniform. Severe head trauma can affect your ability to sleep, balance, move, and think.

A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you are a veteran who received a denial for your traumatic brain injury claim. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement. VetLaw’s accredited team of skilled attorneys can assist you in filing traumatic brain injury claims, measuring your losses, and pursuing appeals in the event of a benefits denial.

Severe Head Trauma Sustained During Military Service

A traumatic brain injury, often referred to by the acronym TBI, can result from any direct blow to the head or neck which causes the skull to whip back and forth. Severe head trauma involves physical damage to the brain and can range from concussions which fully heal to permanently impaired cognitive function.

Active duty servicemembers may be exposed to explosions, truck crashes, falls from great heights, or training accidents involving heavy machinery. A VA-accredited lawyer can help you provide accurate and up-to-date documentation of a service-connected injury for severe head trauma claims if Veterans Affairs denied your initial application for benefits.

What Are Common Causes of Service-Related Head Injuries

The most common cause of service-related head injuries is an injury from an IED explosion. However, vehicle blasts, blows to the head, and vehicle crashes are also common causes of traumatic brain injury. A concussion from any source while on active duty may be considered a traumatic brain injury, even if the residuals of the TBI are mild.

Servicemembers could also suffer from moderate, severe, or penetrating brain injuries, in addition to mild brain injuries. While the term “mild” suggests that the TBI isn’t severe, it can become severe over time. Veterans who have suffered from a concussion could develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) later in life.

Researchers are still learning about CTE; however, in most cases, most who develop CTE later in life had more than one concussion. CTE is a disease that is difficult to diagnose while the person is still alive. Doctors can only look at symptoms and determine that “maybe” a person has CTE. The only way to know for sure is to do an autopsy.

Moderate and severe brain injuries comes with their own health complications. A new study has even found evidence that a severe brain injury increases the risk of brain cancer in veterans.

Pursuing a Claim for a Traumatic Brain Injury

The Veterans Disability Compensation Program offers benefits to former servicemembers who suffered injuries while on active duty. If a veteran’s condition is severe enough to impact their civilian life, the VA may recognize service connection and provide disability compensation.

However, there are standards that applicants must meet to qualify for these benefits. For example, it is essential to establish that a condition is a direct result of an incident which took place during active duty service. Brain injuries which occur while in combat, in training accidents, or even while serving in an office setting could form the basis of a successful claim for disability benefits.

An applicant must also prove that their condition negatively affects their civilian life. For instance, if a brain injury affects a veteran’s ability to speak, it could be considered a disabling condition. Other qualifying symptoms include:

  • Chronic imbalance
  • Night terrors
  • Impaired mental capacity
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Tinnitus

Finally, a former servicemember must have been discharged under honorable conditions in order to qualify for benefits from the VA. Providing a copy of a DD214 form should be sufficient evidence for this portion of a traumatic brain injury claim.

How Is Service Connection Established for Head Injuries?

Doctors must look at several factors, including when the injury happened, what the servicemember was doing at the time of the injury, and whether there was a loss of consciousness. As with all disability claims, the veteran must provide certain evidence to qualify for a service-connected brain injury, including medical records from the time of the injury, a personal statement from the veteran, medical test results, treatment for TBI, and witness statements.

If the veteran can also prove that a secondary condition was caused by the initial TBI, they could recover additional compensation. Secondary conditions might include Parkinson’s, dementia, disease of hormone deficiency, seizures, headaches, tinnitus, and depression.

How do I prove TBI to VA?

Proving TBI to the VA will depend on what caused your brain injury. If the injury was caused by an explosion or car accident while deployed it should be simple to document the service connection. Unfortunately, records from combat deployments are often missing or incomplete, so obtaining witness statements or other supporting evidence is helpful.

Did You Receive A Denial for Your Veteran Traumatic Brain Injury Claim?

It has always been difficult to obtain a disability rating from the Veterans Affairs, but in recent years, it has become more difficult. Brain injuries are not always easy to prove, either, especially non-penetrating brain injuries. If your VA disability for a head injury claim was denied, a VA disability attorney could help you with the appeals process.

The VA will not approve your claim unless you have the required medical information showing that your head injury or secondary injuries related to a head injury happened during your time in the service. In some cases, it is harder to win a disability claim if you use “outside” doctors. Still, even those who use VA doctors have difficulty getting a head injury approved for disability.

How Much Does VA pay for TBI?

The compensation someone will receive from the VA for a TBI depends on the rating that was assigned. The compensation amounts change on an annual basis and historically increase each time there’s a change. In addition to schedular payments, veterans with severe TBI residuals may also qualify for special monthly compensation based on the need for aid and attendance.

How Does the VA Rate a Head Injury?

Currently, any veteran who receives health care from the VA receives mandatory traumatic brain injury screening if the veteran served in combat. The screening consists of four questions. Additionally, if a VA provider determines that a veteran has suffered a traumatic brain injury, the provider will discuss the results of the screening with the veteran and will then recommend follow-up care with the VA’s specialty providers or outside specialty providers.

The VA evaluates a TBI at 0, 10, 40, 70, or 100 percent. In some cases, the VA will admit that the rating should be higher than 100 percent because the brain injury is so severe. In those cases, the veteran could be eligible for additional compensation in the form of special monthly compensation (SMC) based on the need for aid and attendance.

If your brain injury causes you to need the assistance of another person to perform certain activities of daily living, you could receive an additional SMC rating. The amount indicated in the table is added to your regular disability compensation.

To receive special monthly compensation based on the need for aid and attendance, you must show that one or more of the following is true: you cannot dress or undress yourself, you do not have the ability to attend to your hygiene needs yourself, you cannot feed yourself, you need help using the restroom, and/or leaving you alone exposes you to dangerous activities, such as using a stove.

Let an Attorney Help You Appeal A Veteran Traumatic Brain Injury Claim Denial

Serving in the military involves many health risks, not least of which is the potential to suffer traumatic brain injuries. Severe head trauma can result in concussions, a permanent impairment of cognitive functions, and irreparable brain damage. Oftentimes the residuals of a TBI may not be recognizable until years after active duty service ends.

If you sustained a brain injury while serving on active duty which affects your civilian life, you may qualify for entitlement to service connection and receive compensation through VA’s disability benefits program.

A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you have been denied benefits for your service-connected head injury. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement.

VetLaw’s team can help you pursue an appeal if you are a veteran who received a denial for a traumatic brain injury claim. For help with understanding the elements of a claim, filing updated paperwork, and challenging the VA’s decision, contact a lawyer today and make an appointment.