Black Hawks, brain injuries and disability

stress photoChicago and Northwest Indiana were awash in a sea of red and black recently, with the Black Hawks bringing home their third Stanley Cup in six years. With all eyes having been focused on hockey, this seems a good time to visit a serious subject linked to the sport in recent years — the risk of brain injury. To be fair, hockey isn’t the only sport under fire for TBI — traumatic brain injury. Football, boxing and other sports have taken their share of “hits.” And athletics certainly aren’t the only way to suffer such a disabling condition. Motor vehicle accidents, falls and violent crimes are major causes of damage to the brain. Veterans might have suffered TBIs due to bombing. TBIs affect about 1.5 million people per year. Some suffer only mild, temporary effects, while some injuries result in coma. Many people are familiar with the milder form of a TBI, a concussion. More severe brain injuries  result in prolonged unconsciousness, speech problems, diminished thinking capacity and loss of motor function. Effects can linger for years and include trouble sleeping, headaches, mood disorders, memory loss and problems concentrating or focusing. TBIs are diagnosed with MRIs and CT scans, as well as neuropsychological tests. Social Security has specific criteria for determining if a person is disabled under their rules due to TBI. These “listings” classify TBI under the categories of epilepsy, stroke or organic mental disorders, depending on the individual’s symptoms.  SSA takes into consideration the frequency and type of seizures, language and mobility issues, cognitive dysfunction and personality changes. While it’s often difficult to be approved for disability due to a mild TBI, some claimants are approved based on the requirements of their job and how much their condition limits their ability to work. Veterans suffering TBI may be eligible to receive VA disability, in addition to Social Security benefits. Past criticism of VA guidelines on TBI has caused the agency to propose new rules for evaluating the condition. If the change is approved, five diseases would be considered service-connected to TBI: Parkinson’s, seizures, certain dementias, depression and hormone deficiencies (there are stipulations as to when the diseases were diagnosed in relation to the TBI, however). When the VA presumes a service connection, that means the veteran does not need to prove the illness occurred during service. We can help navigate the maze of Social Security and VA regulations concerning TBI. If you or someone you know has suffered brain trauma and would like to know if disability is an option, or if you have applied for Social Security or veterans benefits based on TBI and been denied, and would like to know why and whether you should appeal, please contact us. We’ll be glad to help you figure it out!