Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Had A Traumatic Brain Injury?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of TBI are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with TBI. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or that
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is Brain Injury?
A brain injury can significantly change and alter the course of an individual’s life, as well as the lives of their family. A traumatic brain injury is caused by trauma to the brain, such as a violent blow to the head or a penetrating injury like a bullet wound.
What Are The Symptoms of A Brain Injury?
The symptoms of a brain injury depend on what part of the brain was injured. Mild traumatic brain injury can cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells; a more serious injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and even death.
The physical consequences of a brain injury depend on whether the person has a mild, moderate or severe brain injury. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, impaired coordination, slowness of movement, paralysis, weakness on one side, seizures, sensory problems, impaired alertness, fatigue, language disorder, and problems with speech and vision.
Cognitive problems can include difficulty taking and following instructions, sequencing and processing information, and staying on task.
It is not uncommon for those with a brain injury to act out and suffer from depression.
The physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms can have catastrophic consequences on the ability to work.
When Your TBI Meets A Listing
TBI is evaluated under the cerebral trauma portion of the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If your TBI meets or equals a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your TBI to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and determine if you meet a listing for a central nervous system vascular accident or an organic mental disorder.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your TBI Makes It Impossible to Work
If your TBI doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your TBI.
Residual Functional Capacity For TBI
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that will explain:
- What trouble you have with language and how effective your speech or communication is,
- Whether there is any disruption of the use of your arms or legs that interferes with walking and/or the use of fingers, hands, and arms,
- Any changes in your cognitive abilities,
- Any disorientation, personality changes, or mood changes that limit your daily activities, social functioning or ability to concentrate,
- Any reduction in your IQ,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a TBI RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve?
If you can’t work or your doctor told you to apply for Social Security disability as a result of a TBI, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Nancy can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for a TBI. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.