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“I am so glad I don’t have to shoulder the burden of fighting for my benefits by myself. There is such a great team at Berry Law to stand shoulder to shoulder with me now.”
– Chet Bennetts, Iraq War VeteranContact Us Now
We realize the TBI risks that military men and women face. We also understand the important role that disability benefits play in recovery from TBI.
We can review your case and guide you through the VA and federal courts appeals process. Our firm handles appeals before VA Regional Offices, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. We have a record of delivering positive results for veterans.
Schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable team today.
A person with TBI may not appear to be sick or in pain. This is why the medical community often calls TBI an “invisible injury.” Despite the lack of outward signs, a person with TBI has suffered serious damage. Traumatic brain injuries greatly disrupt the brain’s ability to function.
Penetrating head injury
A concussion is a mild form of TBI that many service members experience. In most cases, a service member who suffers a concussion fully recovers from the injury. However, in some cases, a concussion carries lingering physical and mental effects, particularly if the person did not receive proper medical care or suffered a repeat concussion.
Many combat veterans suffer from TBI that occurred in battle. However, a veteran with TBI that occurred outside of combat may still qualify for disability benefits through a VA claim. For instance, a veteran may sustain a brain injury in a civilian car accident while on active duty. This injury would qualify for the same service-connected disability compensation as any other injury that occurred during any part of the veteran’s active military service.
If the above symptoms describe what you experienced at the time of your injury, and you continue to deal with symptoms now, you may be suffering from a form of TBI that might entitle you to VA disability benefits. You have the option of getting screened for TBI by your regular physician or at a VA Medical Center.
Getting medical attention is important, even if you believe you only sustained a mild TBI. A severe TBI can be degenerative and result in long-term difficulties with mental or cognitive function. Unless you receive timely, proper treatment, the symptoms may grow worse over time.
If a service-connected TBI prevents you from getting or maintaining a job, affects your relationships, or disrupts your ability to perform daily tasks, your injury may qualify you to receive veterans’ disability benefits.
Although the VA may agree that you suffer from a disability, the VA’s rating decision may fail to properly reflect the severity of your TBI. You may seek a lawyer’s review of your claim.
The first step in obtaining VA disability benefits for a TBI is to show the VA that your disability is related to your military service. To accomplish this, a veteran’s claim and the evidence that the VA develops must show three things: (1) that the veteran has a current disability due to residuals of a TBI, (2) that the veteran had an in-service injury, and (3) that there is a connection between the current disability and the in-service injury.
In other words, veterans must show that they had some sort of head trauma, like the examples above, during military service and that they currently have residual symptoms as a result. TBI must be diagnosed by a medical clinician or VA examiner.
When you apply for VA disability compensation for a TBI, the VA will review the evidence, including your service personnel and medical records, your post-service medical records, and any statements you or your friends and family provide, looking for the necessary evidence to establish a service connection.
The VA may order the veteran to attend a Compensation & Pension examination, at which a VA clinician or third-party contractor will examine the Veteran and provide a medical opinion on the nature and severity of the veteran’s condition. It is very important that the veteran attend the scheduled examination. If they do not report to the examination or provide an explanation as to why they could not attend, the VA will likely deny the claim.
The veteran can also have a private doctor complete a VA disability benefits questionnaire and provide their own medical opinion, which the VA will weigh against its own examiner’s opinion if necessary. Other evidence that may be helpful includes statements by the veteran and friends and family members with firsthand knowledge of either the head trauma the veteran experienced during service or the current symptoms the veteran experiences.
Once a service connection is granted, the VA will assign a disability rating based on the severity of the residual symptoms of a TBI. A VA TBI rating is based on assessment under a variety of categories.
Because TBI symptoms can manifest in a wide variety of ways, they can often be rated either under the VA’s TBI evaluation criteria or under the criteria for other mental and physical conditions.
For example, a veteran may have depressive disorder symptoms as a result of a TBI or that overlap with similar TBI symptoms. If those depressive symptoms would warrant a higher disability rating under the VA’s rating criteria for mental disorders, then a rating under the mental disorder criteria would be assigned, and those symptoms would not receive an additional rating under the TBI criteria. Similarly, a veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be deemed indistinguishable from the cognitive impairment as a result of a TBI. The VA should automatically consider which applicable rating criteria are more beneficial to the veteran.
For TBI symptoms that do not fall under other VA disability rating criteria for mental or physical disabilities or that are rated higher under the TBI rating criteria, the VA will consult a series of tables and regulations to determine the correct TBI disability rating.
Under the TBI criteria, the VA rates a disability as 0, 10, 40, or 70 percent disabling based on the number and severity of symptoms that fall into three different categories of symptoms:
The VA rating criteria provide a table of ten “facets” of TBI-related cognitive impairment, subjective symptoms, and levels of severity for each that are assigned a point value. The VA will consider what level of severity the veteran’s TBI symptoms fall into for each facet and then assign a corresponding VA disability rating.
The ten facets of TBI residuals are:
Severity values of 0, 1, 2, 3, or “total” are assigned for each facet based on how much the condition impairs the veteran’s ability to work for a living, establish or maintain relationships and conduct routine activities of daily life (though not all facets have all 5 point values available).
A veteran’s overall disability rating for TBI disability is based on the highest level of severity in any one of the ten facets of TBI residuals. If the Veteran’s TBI residuals qualify as “total” severity in any of the facets, then the veteran is entitled to a 100 percent disability rating.
If the highest level of severity is a 3, then the disability rating will be 70 percent. If the highest level of severity is a 2, then 40 percent will be assigned. If the highest level is 1, then a 10 percent disability rating is assigned. And if none of the facets is assigned a point value higher than 0, then the VA will assign a 0 percent non-compensable disability rating—meaning the veteran will not receive any monthly compensation even though a TBI disability has been proven related to service.
In addition, special monthly compensation may be available to veterans who require additional care based on more severe impairments or disabilities. Determining the specific level of special monthly compensation can be complex and is greatly aided by a lawyer with experience in VA benefits.
After the VA processes your claim, the VA Regional Office will mail you a letter that states your disability rating and monthly benefit amount. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal.
Click here to learn more about your appeal options.
The VA disability benefits system is supposed to be veteran-friendly. However, the rules and regulations governing the claims process can be confusing and frustrating for everyone involved. You do not have to face the VA and its legal system alone. At Berry Law, we know the way forward.
For many years, we have helped veterans fight for their VA disability benefits on appeal. Our attorneys understand the claims and appeals process, the evidence necessary to prove your TBI is related to service, how to maximize the assigned VA disability rating for TBI and related disabilities, and how to determine the proper amount of back pay that disabled veterans deserve.
Get help from our VA disability attorneys today. Our office – 6940 O St., Suite 400, Lincoln, NE 68510.
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