Traumatic brain injury is just one injury that servicemembers might suffer from during their time in service and a head injury can qualify a veteran for VA disability. While these types of injuries were not as common in past decades, they are more common since 9/11. In fact, over the past couple of decades, the Department of Defense has reported over 375,000 cases of traumatic brain injury.
A traumatic brain injury could be penetrating or non-penetrating. A non-penetrating injury means that the skull is not cracked, such as in a situation where the soldier suffered blunt force trauma. A penetrating brain injury is one where the skull is cracked or broken. Pieces of the skull or a foreign object could penetrate the skull to cause a brain injury.
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.
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.
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.
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 Parkinsonism, dementia, disease of hormone deficiency, seizures, headaches, tinnitus, and depression.
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.
If your VA disability claim for a head injury has been denied, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.
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.
Yes. If someone suffers a brain injury due to their military service, they will likely be able to qualify for VA disability benefits.
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.
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