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Traumatic Brain Injury and mental illness disability

Over a year ago, this blog discussed the general procedure the Social Security Administration uses when evaluating Social Security Disability Insurance claims based upon an applicant's suffering of a Traumatic Brain Injury. We briefly touched on the fact that the SSA can defer the adjudication in some cases if the symptoms of the injury are not immediately apparent. While physical symptoms, such as coma or head pain, are likely to manifest early in this process, the symptoms of TBI that might be considered mental disabilities may take longer.

Over recent years, the medical community and we, as a society, have come to learn about the mental effects of such brain injuries. Whether incurred in a motor vehicle accident, in a fall or at work, the victim of such injuries can sometimes change significantly in personality or mental capability. While there is still much we don't know, we do now understand that such injuries are serious and not to be trifled with.

But how does the SSA go about evaluating the mental aspect of TBIs with regard to an SSDI claim? A clue can be found in Section 11.18 of the administration's 'Blue Book.' In this publication, the SSA says it looks for a marked limitation in a person's ability to communicate or interact with others, ability to remember, understand or apply information, concentrate or persist in a task or adapt or manage him or herself. Moreover, these symptoms must persist for at least three consecutive months subsequent to the injury's occurrence.

There has been much work done on the effect of TBIs, especially due to the popularity of certain types of sports in which they are common. However, there is still much that is unknown, and the stories of the families of those so affected tell of significant changes in mental functioning. Those who have suffered such an injury, and are unable to work because of it, may be eligible for benefits under the law for mental illness disability.

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