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Brain Injury

Does A Brain Injury Qualify Me For Social Security Benefits?

If you are a brain injury survivor and cannot work full-time as a result, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability.


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Although the term “brain injury” often makes folks think only of traumatic brain injury (TBI), in fact, a brain injury may include any of the following:

  • Brain damage: the destruction or degeneration of brain cells.
  • TBI: damage that occurs when an outside force traumatically injures the brain.
  • Stroke: a vascular event causing damage in the brain.
  • Acquired brain injury: damage to the brain that occurs after birth, regardless of whether it is traumatic or non-traumatic, or whether due to an outside or internal cause.

If you are a brain injury survivor and cannot work at any full-time occupation as a result, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability. When your application is evaluated, the Social Security Administration will look at how your brain injury affects you. Even if your symptoms don’t seem severe, a brain injury can affect your life in many ways–some of which you may not notice but people around you might see. These impacts on your ability to function in a work setting may include:

  • Cognitive problems: trouble paying attention, impaired judgment, short-term and long-term memory loss
  • Communication problems: aphasia/difficulty finding words, dysarthria/difficulty speaking, prosodic dysfunction/difficulty with tone of voice
  • Sensory problems: problems with vision or visual processing, tinnitus or hearing noises, feeling itching, tingling or pain without an obvious source

Depending on the location of your brain injury, you may notice emotional changes too. Friends and family can help you identify these if you’re unsure of whether you’re experiencing them:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • panic attacks
  • insomnia
  • loss of inhibition
  • impulsiveness
  • aggression
  • loss of interest or pleasure in formerly enjoyable activities

Brain injuries can also cause a variety of physical symptoms:

  • blood clots
  • seizures
  • muscle/motor disorders
  • hydrocephalus
  • vasospasm (constriction of blood vessels)
  • aneurysms
  • hormone imbalance, including hypothyroidism

This is not a complete list so if you experience other symptoms or notice changes in your behavior and personality, be sure to talk to your doctor about how they may relate to your brain injury.

All of these symptoms may limit you in your ability to work. Social Security will consider how the limitations you tell them about will affect:

  • How well you can perform physical tasks such as walking, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching, and handling objects; or
  • How well you can perform mental tasks such as understanding, carrying out, and remembering instructions; responding appropriately to supervision and co-workers; and dealing with work pressures.

Improving Your Chances For Obtaining Benefits

  1. See a doctor regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that your doctor can support your application for benefits.
  2. Use a calendar to jot down notes about how you feel each day.
  3. Record any of your usual activities you could not do on any given day.
  4. Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, dizziness, or other hard-to-document symptoms.
  5. Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.

You can learn more about Social Security benefits and brain injury at the links below.

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Brain Injury

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