VA Disability Benefits for TBI: Four Things to Know

Black and white animated brain

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common service-related injury for Veterans who have seen combat. Whether caused by a blow, a vehicular accident, or an explosion, every injured Veteran with a TBI has a variety of symptoms that require diagnosis and care. If you’re seeking an appeal of your VA disability decision, it’s important that you choose the right Georgia disability lawyers to assist with your case. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center has reported that nearly 414,000 Veterans reported TBIs between 2000 and 2019. If you are suffering as a result of a TBI or are unable to work due to symptoms, filing for VA disability benefits for your TBI can greatly benefit you and your family as you receive the medical care you need and the VA support that you deserve. 

Here are four things to know when seeking an appeal for VA disability benefits for a TBI. 

First: Receive an Official Diagnosis

If you’ve experienced a TBI connected to your military service, you are possibly dealing with symptoms like: 

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Hearing problems
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in your sense of taste or smell
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Repeating yourself
  • Becoming easily angry or frustrated

While all of these symptoms are debilitating, medical doctors take several steps to diagnose TBI, including imaging, the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), and speech and language tests. 

Remember to work with physicians who are familiar with Veterans disability, and make sure to keep records of all test results and diagnoses--this will strengthen your appeal if you are denied or receive a lower rating than you and your medical team think that you deserve. 

Second: Show Evidence that Your Injury is Connected to Your Service

Some TBIs have a clear connection to active-duty service, like a vehicular accident or an explosion. Yet others may be more difficult to prove. Establishing a service connection is a critical part of gaining disability benefits. You’ll need military and medical records to show your service connection. 

In addition, there are many secondary conditions that may follow a TBI, including Parkinson’s disease, dementia, seizures, depression, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When filing for VA disability benefits, it’s important to know that the VA evaluates all disabilities, injuries, and conditions individually. You may file secondary claims following an initial claim for TBI if you suffer from conditions related to your initial brain injury. 

Secondary claims for medical issues that arise following an initial diagnosis are time-consuming and involved, however, it’s important that you file for benefits that you deserve. Remember, filing your own claim doesn’t take benefits away from anyone else. It’s important that your medical and legal teams understand the full scope of your injuries and conditions in order to assist you with gaining benefits for secondary claims, as well. 

Third: Receive a Proper Rating for Your Level of Disability

The ratings for TBI are 0, 10, 40, 70, and 100, based on the severity of your brain injury. Based on medical evidence submitted, and military records, the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) will assign a rating that coincides with the severity of your injury. The higher the rating, the higher your monthly benefit will be. 

If you feel that you’ve not received a proper rating, you can submit an appeal to have the case reviewed by the Board of Veterans Appeals. The appeals process gathers and develops new evidence and re-reviews the case to issue a final decision on behalf of the VA secretary for disability compensation claims (and other veterans' benefits).

Keep in mind that the appeals process is complex and takes a considerable amount of time. In 2017, the BVA issued 52,661 decisions. For those appeals that were resolved by the BVA, veterans waited on average seven years from the date that they initiated their appeal until resolution.

Fourth: Choose an Attorney Experienced with VA Disability Appeals

If you’re a Veteran who’s been denied your initial disability claim, or you’ve received a rating lower than you believe is fair for the injuries and illnesses incurred by your service, you are now faced with the option to appeal or challenge the VA’s ruling. 

An appeal is when you return to the VA with additional evidence supporting your claim. A challenge to a rating means that you disagree with the level of disability assigned to you by the VA, and you present supporting evidence to raise your rating to a higher level. 

VA-accredited lawyers only handle appeals in VA disability. By law, attorneys cannot charge fees to assist Veterans in filing their initial claims for disability benefits. If you’ve suffered injuries or illnesses related to your service, and have been denied your initial claim, now--at the time of your appeal--is when to seek the assistance of a VA disability lawyer. 

Experienced VA disability lawyers will have a broad range of case histories similar to yours, where a newer, less experienced firm will not. It’s important to ask tough questions of your potential legal partner to make sure that they are the right match for you. For example, if your claims involve both physical and mental ailments, or if you have multiple supplemental claims, it’s important to partner with a firm experienced with similar situations. Let their experience work for you to help you win your appeal. 

More Facts about Denial of Benefits: 

  • You may file for disability at any time after your service.
  • Of all original claims filed each year for VA disability, 31% are denied. 
  • You may have all, none, or some of your claims denied.
  • Of those initially denied, 60% are denied in error. 
  • If your original claim is denied, you typically have one year to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD).
  • The average decision time for an initial VA disability claim is 94.3 days. However this is only an average, and every case is different based on the complexity involved.
  • Having an attorney advocate on your side likely doubles your chances of approval. 

If your VA Disability claim was denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us at (404) 990-3945.

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