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.
The residuals of TBI are grouped into general symptom categories. Examples of physical residuals include:
Examples of cognitive effects include:
Examples of emotional and behavioral residuals include:
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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