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Can I get Social Security Disability for a traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result from a blow to the head, a skull fracture or an object penetrating the brain. There are many ways a TBI could happen at work. These include a vehicle crash, a fall from height or a piece of metal flying out of a machine.

Some TBIs soon disappear. Others cause damage that lasts for years and limits your ability to do everyday tasks and perform your job. If a TBI leaves you unable to work, you may need to file a claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) define a TBI?

If you wish to seek SSD benefits, you need to apply to the Social Security Administration (SSA). As with all injuries, their definition of a TBI is more limited than that used by doctors. Remember that what the SSA looks at is how the injury or illness disables you and if it prevents you from working for at least 12 months.

The SSA’s Blue Book says a TBI could count for SSD if it affects you in one of two ways:

  • Physical issues: You have extreme difficulty standing up, balancing or using any two of your arms and/or legs.
  • Physical and cognitive issues: You have marked physical limitations in some way as well as problems thinking, relating to others, concentrating or managing your behavior or emotions.

You may still be able to claim SSD benefits even if your TBI does not meet the SSA’s narrow definition. There are various ways to show that an injury is causing a disability that prevents you from working. Having the guidance of an attorney who understands the system and process is crucial to your chances of success.

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