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Can someone with a brain injury qualify for SSD benefits?

The Social Security Disability program provides benefits for people who experience disabilities as a result of illness or injury. In some cases, a person with a brain injury can qualify to receive benefits if the brain injury results in an inability to work. When analyzing a claim for Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration looks at what the person is able to do, in terms of work, despite his or her disability. This is called the residual functional capacity.

The first requirement for obtaining benefits is that the disability resulting from the brain injury must persist for twelve months or be expected to result in death. An applicant must provide medical evidence documenting the injury and disability as well as work history information. Although the Social Security disability evaluation guidebook, also known as the "blue book," provides useful information about impairments, it does not contain all of the conditions that may make a person eligible for benefits. A traumatic brain injury is a specific impairment listed in the blue book, but in order to determine if a particular brain injury qualifies, a person would need to consult the evaluation criteria of other listings. Relevant evaluation criteria can be found in the impairment listings for epilepsy, central nervous system vascular accident and organic brain disorders.

It is important to look at the criteria of these different impairment listings because TBIs manifest with a range of symptoms and mental or neurological impairments. If a TBI results in seizures, applicants must provide detailed descriptions of what occurs during a seizure and the seizures must happen at least once a month despite continued treatment. For TBIs that do not cause seizures, symptoms relevant to proving eligibility for benefits can include loss of coordination, speech or communication abilities, motor function, or ambulation.

Because applying for SSD benefits is a very complex process and the rules and impairment listings are dense, this article is not to be construed as specific legal advice. The important thing to know is that a TBI may result in a disability that qualifies for Social Security benefits, and those suffering from such a disability may want to seek assistance in applying for them.

Source: socialsecurity.gov, "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security," Accessed on August 22, 2014

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