March is Brain Injury Awareness month. The theme of this month, according to the Brain Injury Association of America, is that brain injury does not discriminate. According to this organization's website, 2.4 million people in the United States suffer a brain injury every year caused by accident or disease.
As people with brain injuries and their loved ones know all too well, returning to work after a brain injury is often impossible. In fact, nearly 50% of individuals who suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) had not returned to work after one year. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 20 percent of people with TBI are unemployed 10 years after they suffered a brain injury.
Because returning to work is not an option for many people with TBI, they may want to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Symptoms that could prevent people with brain injury from returning to work include:
- Serious cognitive defects that limit understanding or slow the ability to process information
- Problems speaking
- Limits to judgment that would create safety problems
- Impaired physical functioning
- Uncontrolled seizures
- Impaired social skills
- Psychological problems caused by TBI that could include depression and increased lability (emotionalism)
Although anyone who has paid into the Social Security system and has accumulated enough credits may be eligible for disability benefits, not every applicant is awarded benefits. In fact, more than 60 percent of people who apply for SSD are turned down at first. Even if you have suffered a brain injury and cannot work, Social Security will evaluate your ability not only to perform your previous work but also to take up a new type of job. Depending on your situation, they may evaluate your ability to work by looking at:
- Your ability to exert yourself
Your ability to reach, climb and perform other "manipulative and postural activities"
- Your ability to adapt to different environmental conditions such as heat, cold, noise, rain, etc.
- Your ability to hear, see and speak
- Your ability to concentrate
- Your ability to understand, remember and follow directions
- Your ability to respond to requests or react to situations
- Your ability to adapt to change
Even after a brain injury, obtaining SSD benefits is not automatic. In fact, it could take a while, and require appeals, multiple physician reports and extensive paperwork. Navigating the Social Security Disability system can be very challenging. If you encounter problems with your SSD claim after suffering a brain injury, do what many others have done. Get help from Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Call them from anywhere in the United States to learn what they can do for you.
Source: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the MU Department of Health Psychology ,"The Brain Injury Guide and Resources," n.d.