Before applying for disability for a traumatic brain injury or acquired brain injury, it’s helpful to know your likelihood of qualifying. Find out what you need to know here.

In the aftermath of a brain injury, it is important to focus on your recovery. But that likely won’t stop you from worrying about mounting medical bills from your initial injury.

And what happens if, as time goes on, your brain injury continues to have an effect on your everyday life? What if you can’t return to your former employment? Does your brain injury qualify you for disability benefits?

The good news is that it might be possible to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs have several key differences, both are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Read on to learn more about applying for disability benefits after a brain injury.

Types of Acquired Brain Injuries

Both traumatic and non-traumatic injuries fall under the label of an acquired brain injury or ABI, defined by QLI’s Director of Psychology Dr. Jeff Snell as “an injury to the central nervous system or neurological condition in the brain that occurs after the birthing process.”

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries are defined as any physical injuries to the head that damage part of the brain. In many cases they result from an accident. There are two common ways this occurs: motor vehicle accidents and falls.

A driver or passenger who isn’t wearing a seatbelt is more likely to be badly injured in a car accident.  Particularly dangerous situations include head-on collisions and rollovers, and resulting injuries are usually worse when accidents occur at higher speeds.

Another common cause of traumatic brain injuries is slipping and falling on a wet or icy indoor or outdoor surface, ladders, stairs, etc.. If the fall results in a blow to the head, a person can end up with serious skull and/or brain injury.

Less common causes of traumatic brain injury include being struck by an object, being assaulted, or extremely hard contact in sports.

Any individual injury is unique and requires a specialized treatment and therapy plan.

What is a Non-Traumatic Brain Injury?

Non-traumatic injuries are internal, resulting from strokes, infections, viruses, or tumors. With a loss of blood flow due to blood clotting in the brain, these causes ultimately lead to brain lesions and hemorrhages.

Does Traumatic Brain Injury or Acquired Brain Injury Qualify You for Disability Benefits?

After a person is diagnosed with a serious brain injury, it’s important to consider the future. Will it be possible to work again? What are the expectations for or limits associated with physical and cognitive function?

It’s likely that a brain injury will affect your life to some extent. It’s completely possible that you might still be able to work at least part-time or on a volunteer basis. However, you might find physical labor—and other work-related tasks—a little more difficult than before.

For example, some people might have a hard time with short-term memory. Others might struggle with coordination, or with using one of their limbs. Some individuals might even notice a decline in one or more of their senses.

If you experience any of these things after your injury, you’re probably wondering if you qualify for disability benefits. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

The United States federal government has regulations in place to determine whether or not someone qualifies for disability Social Security benefits. While brain injuries are included on the list of qualifying disabilities, there are certain conditions that you need to meet in order to receive benefits. Generally speaking, Social Security defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

When Does Your Brain Injury Qualify for Disability?

To determine if you are able to return to your old job, you will be subject to a medical examination to identify any limitations caused by your brain injury.

Physical Limitations

Physical limitations include impairment that may prevent you from physically performing the work you were doing before. You must demonstrate problems in two limbs that affect your daily life and work.

Most jobs require some amount of standing and walking every day. However, if you need daily mobility support after your injury that you can’t use on the job, it’s possible you qualify for disability. For instance, if you use a wheelchair after your injury and your job requires climbing a ladder, you would be able to demonstrate an inability to perform the same job post-injury.

If your brain injury will affect the function of two or more limbs at least three months after your injury, then you may want to consider filing for disability benefits. A disability determination can take anywhere from three to six months to receive so applying early is important.

Cognitive Limitations

If your brain injury affects your cognitive function, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Comprehension skills refer to your ability to understand, remember and apply information and instructions. Concentration means being able to focus on the task given to you, work on it continuously, and finish it in a timely manner.

Most jobs require interacting with other people to some extent. If your social skills are impaired, you may have trouble reading social cues or functioning in a group. Emotional regulation and awareness skills entail understanding work expectations, adapting to changes quickly, and controlling your emotional responses.

Difficulty with any of these skills following a traumatic brain injury, even if your physical functions are unaffected, may qualify you for disability benefits.

Other Cases

What about people who don’t meet these specific criteria, but are still struggling months after brain injury? They may still be eligible to receive disability benefits.

In these cases, the SSA would need to do an evaluation after three months have passed since your injury. At this point, it might be assumed that your condition won’t change significantly – though it’s important to note that with the right therapies, improvements can occur long after three months have passed. So, if you are still experiencing something that is interfering with your ability to go back to work, you may want to consider seeking evaluation.


Apply for Disability Today

If your brain injury has left you unable to work, you will want to access the resources you qualify for, including disability benefits from the SSA.

You should also be receiving cutting-edge rehabilitation services, and that’s where QLI comes in. We offer the best rehabilitation services for brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, limb loss, and chronic pain.

If you’re recovering from a traumatic brain injury or other ABI, our expert services can help you. Contact us at 402-573-3748 today to get started on your recovery right away.

Categories: Brain Injury