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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
TBI has been described as the signature injury of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While TBIs often occur in combat, service members can suffer traumatic brain injury during any accident or fall that occurred during service. If you suffered a head injury during service, and you have current residuals of TBI, then you may be eligible for disability compensation benefits.
Residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury
The residuals of TBI are grouped into general symptom categories. Examples of physical residuals include:
- bone fractures
- headaches or migraines
- difficulty eating and speaking
- degraded vision
- loss of hearing or sense of touch
Examples of cognitive effects include:
- lack of attention and concentration
- memory loss
- decreased ability to process and understand information
- lack of judgement and/or reasoning
- decreased ability to problem solve and make decisions
- communication problems
- decreased ability to plan, organize, and assemble
Examples of emotional and behavioral residuals include:
- inability to control impulsive behavior and emotions
Evaluation of Traumatic Brain Injury
VA compensates veterans for residuals of TBI according to four categories: (1) emotional/behavioral, (2) physical dysfunction, (3) subjective symptoms, and (4) cognitive impairment. If a residual of TBI is ratable under an appropriate diagnostic code in the rating schedule, then the residual should be rated under the schedule accordingly. For example, if a residual of TBI is depression, then depression should be rated according to the schedule for mental disorders. On the other hand, if there is no appropriate diagnostic code for a residual, then the residual is rated according to the TBI rating table entitled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified.”
TBI Evaluations Before October 23, 2008
VA updated its rating schedule on October 23, 2008, to better compensate for the residuals of TBI. If you had a TBI rating prior to October 23, 2008, then you are eligible to have that rating reviewed and evaluated under the new criteria to see if your residuals are entitled to a higher rating under the new schedule. A veteran does not need to assert a worsening of residuals in order to obtain this review – VA will conduct a review upon request from the veteran.
TBI Presumptive Service-Connected Illnesses – December 2013
In December 2013, the VA issued new regulations stating that if a veteran has a service-connected TBI along with any certain 5 illnesses, then the illness is presumed service connected. The five illnesses are:
- Parkinson’s diseased following moderate or severe TBI
- seizures (for which no cause has been established) following moderate or severe TBI
- certain types of dementia diagnosed within 15 years following moderate or severe TBI
- depression diagnosed within either 3 years of moderate or severe TBI, or 12 months of mild TBI
- hormone deficiency diseases diagnosed within 12 months of moderate or severe TBI
Equitable Relief from Secretary McDonald – June 2016
In June 2016, Secretary McDonald granted equitable relief to more than 24,000 veterans because the VA, beginning in 2007, failed to comply with its own policy requiring that a “psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon or neurologist” complete an initial TBI examination when VA does not have a prior diagnosis of TBI. If your initial TBI examination was not completed by one of the four designated medical specialists, then you are entitled to a new examination and reprocessing of your claim.
How I Can Help
The medical science on TBI and the residuals of TBI is constantly developing and the VA often fails to appropriately apply the rating schedule for residuals of TBI. An independent medical opinion from an expert that specializes in TBI may be necessary.
I work on a contingency fee basis which means you pay no up-front fees for my representation. You only pay my fee if I successfully resolve your appeal. My fee is a reasonable percentage of your backpay award, and does not impact your future benefits.
In addition, I advance all costs of your appeal including the cost of obtaining independent medical examinations (when appropriate). You are only responsible for repayment of expenses upon successful resolution of your appeal, or if you terminate my representation before final conclusion of your appeal.
I handle every aspect of your case from initial intake to resolution, and as a disabled veteran myself, I understand what you are going through. I don’t use support staff, so you are always dealing with me and I pride myself on responding to my clients in a timely manner.