How the VA Rates Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

From big budget Hollywood movies to Sports Center, public awareness about brain trauma is growing. In general, active duty military personnel are more likely to suffer concussions than their civilian peers. Military members often participate in physically demanding operational and training activities, not to mention the risk of blast explosions during deployments. However, many Veterans are surprised that their traumatic brain injury claim gets denied or rated with a noncompensable rating by the VA.

Why TBI Claims are Denied

If a Veteran is denied a traumatic brain injury claim, often it is because they were not diagnosed in service. Perhaps they went to sick call after a head injury in service, but the doctor did not document a traumatic brain injury. In these cases, the VA might deny the claim, particularly if it finds that the Veteran did not lose consciousness after being hit in the head. The best thing a Veteran could do to pursue the claim would be to appeal. If possible, a private medical opinion can also help to connect current symptoms with an in-service head injury.

How the VA Rates TBIs

Once a claim for traumatic brain injury is granted, most often it will be rated at 0 or 10 percent. This is because of the way the regulation governing the rating of traumatic brain injuries is written. The VA breaks symptoms into ten subcategories to evaluate the condition. Within each subcategory is a severity scale of 0, 1, 2, 3, or total, which corresponds with a percentage rating of 0%, 10%, 40%, 70%, or 100%. The VA will not combine the severity ratings from each category, but rather takes the highest number across the categories to rate the disability.

For example, a Veteran suffers from memory problems and poor impulse control as a result of a traumatic brain injury. Under the category for “Memory, attention, concentration, executive functions,” the VA gives a 1. However, under the category for “Judgment,” the VA gives the Veteran a 0. The rating in this case would be 10%.

Getting Service Connected for Secondary Conditions

It’s easy to see how, without one or two very severe individual symptoms, it would be difficult to get a rating higher than 10 percent for a traumatic brain injury. However, Veterans should keep in mind that they are not precluded from pursuing other claims as secondary conditions to their head injury. For instance, many people who suffer head trauma later develop mental health symptoms. A Veteran can file for a psychiatric disorder secondary to their traumatic brain injury and receive VA disability compensation.

Some additional secondary claims to consider might not be so obvious. For instance, many people who suffer traumatic brain injuries are at an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. There has been some indication that a history of head injury can increase a person’s risk of developing thyroid problems. Many people with a traumatic brain injury in their past also develop migraine headaches, which can be extremely debilitating. As with all VA claims, it is important to think about the connections between those injuries suffered in service and your current symptoms.

VA Appeals Lawyers

Veterans who suffered traumatic brain injuries in service are entitled to disability compensation. If you were subject to a TBI while in service and were denied disability benefits by the VA or were given a lower than expected rating, the VA disability lawyers at Berry Law can help you appeal. Our team has helped thousands of fellow Veterans in their fight for disability compensation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.