Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms and Long-Term Effects

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms and Long-Term Effects

Over 180,000 Veterans in the VA’s health care system have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and that number increases daily. TBIs can cause physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities that profoundly affect a Veteran’s quality of life.

If you are a Veteran suffering from a TBI, you may receive significant disability benefits from the VA. The VA recognizes the potential of a TBI to affect a Veteran’s life and ability to function. They may give a Veteran suffering from traumatic brain injury a rating for their condition, leading to more compensation from the VA.

Seeking the assistance of VA traumatic brain injury attorney can be crucial in navigating the complexities of the claims process and ensuring you receive the benefits you deserve.

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

A TBI occurs when someone experiences a sudden, violent impact on the head or body. Since the brain controls a wide range of critical functions, brain damage resulting from a TBI can result in many symptoms. Unfortunately, TBIs are particularly common among members of the military, especially those serving on the front lines.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Soldiers

Members of the military are at a higher-than-average risk for traumatic brain injuries, especially when they see combat.

Below are some of the most common causes of TBI:

  • Getting hit on the head. When something heavy hits a person’s head, the impact can have long-term effects. Even after any outward sign of the injury has gone away, a sufferer of a TBI may still experience inhibited cognitive functioning long after the injury.
  • An electrical current. A high-voltage jolt can dramatically alter cognitive functioning, significantly affecting an individual. This type of TBI is difficult to diagnose.
  • A bullet or other projectile penetrating the skull and reaching the brain. Getting shot in the head often leads to instant death. However, some may survive a bullet penetrating their skull but sustain brain trauma.
  • The force of an explosion. If a bomb goes off during combat, a soldier can sustain a serious injury even if they are not hit by shrapnel or caught in the blast. The vibration from the explosion can cause long-term brain trauma.

A service-related concussion can make you eligible to receive disability benefits. Your chances of receiving benefits increase if you sustain multiple service-related concussions or continue to experience the effects of a service-related concussion long after it occurred.

What Are the Short-Term Symptoms of TBI?

After a TBI, a person may feel extreme pain. In addition, they may get dizzy and even report seeing stars. Confusion and even amnesia may accompany a TBI. A sufferer of TBI may have no memory of the impact that caused their injury. In addition, the impact that leads to TBI can cause a person to lose consciousness.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of TBI?

The VA recognizes that some TBI symptoms may not present right away. Residual TBI symptoms, or those that may develop within 30 days and linger for months or years, are classified into three categories — physical, cognitive, and behavioral/emotional.

Here’s a closer look at what defines these three categories of symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo/balance issues
  • Numbness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Seizures

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Executive dysfunction
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Problems with language
  • Problems with reasoning

Emotional/behavioral symptoms

What Does the VA Need to Award a Disability Rating for a TBI?

Before the VA assigns a rating for a TBI, it will determine whether the injury is service-connected.

For this, the VA usually requires:

  • Proof of a current TBI diagnosis
  • Proof of an in-service event, disease, or injury, and
  • Proof of a medical nexus that explains the extent to which the Veteran’s TBI is connected to their military service

Once you gather the necessary documentation, you must file a VA TBI claim. The VA will determine if you meet the criteria to receive a TBI rating, determine what rating you qualify for, and award benefits accordingly.

How Does the VA Determine a Disability Rating for TBIs?

The VA rates TBIs at zero percent, 10 percent, 40 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent. When assigning a TBI rating, the VA will rate the residual symptoms of your TBI as opposed to the severity of the event that resulted in your TBI. As mentioned above, the VA classifies residual TBI symptoms as cognitive, emotional/behavioral, and physical.

When assigning a rating, the VA will consider your symptoms based on these 10 categories:

  1. Memory, attention, concentration, executive functions
  2. Judgment
  3. Social interaction
  4. Orientation
  5. Motor activity
  6. Visual-spatial orientation
  7. Subjective symptoms
  8. Neurobehavioral effects
  9. Communication
  10. Consciousness

Each of these categories has up to five levels of impairment, listed as 0, 1,2,3, and total, based on the severity of the symptom.

Each level translates to a particular disability rating, for example:

  • 0 = 0 percent disability rating
  • 1 = 10 percent disability rating
  • 2 = 40 percent disability rating
  • 3 = 70 percent disability rating
  • Total = 100 percent disability rating

Is TBI a Presumptive Disability?

A TBI is not a presumptive disability, meaning that if doctors diagnose you with a TBI, the VA does not automatically link it to your time in service.

But, if doctors diagnosed you with a moderate to severe service-related TBI, the VA presumes your TBI could cause five disabilities:

  1. Parkinson’s disease
  2. Dementia, if diagnosed within 15 years of the TBI
  3. Depression, if diagnosed within three years of a moderate to severe TBI or 12 months of a mild TBI
  4. Hormone deficiency diseases, if diagnosed within 12 months
  5. Seizures

Can the VA Rate TBI Symptoms Under Different Criteria?

Because TBI symptoms can affect you in many ways, the VAs can rate you under its TBI evaluation criteria or the criteria of other mental and physical conditions.

For example, a Veteran with TBI symptoms, including TBI-induced depression, may receive a higher disability rating under the VA’s criteria for mental disorders than for TBI. In that case, the VA would assign them a VA disability rating for a mental health disorder, but they may not receive an additional rating under the TBI criteria.

What if the VA Gives You a Low Rating?

If you suffer from residual TBI symptoms and applied for disability benefits from the VA but were denied or received an inaccurate rating, we can help you. Our team of attorneys is committed to helping disabled Veterans get all the compensation they deserve.

Traumatic brain injuries can cause severe, long-term impacts that dramatically affect your life. If the VA inaccurately rates your disability, you may end up with less support than you need while your disability prevents you from working.

If you appeal, the VA can reevaluate your case and may give you a higher rating. One of our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you navigate the complicated VA claims process in pursuit of a higher rating. You shouldn’t have to resolve a dispute with the VA on your own — we can help make it easier to get the rating and benefits you deserve.

John S. Berry, , VA TBI Attorney
John S. Berry, , VA TBI Lawyer
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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