Does TBI Count as a Disability?

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as damage to your brain caused by a blow to the head, a quick head movement, or even penetration into your skull or brain tissue.

This kind of injury, severe or mild, will obviously have some detrimental effects on your health and quality of life, but qualifying criteria for a Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI) can be tricky. Suffice it to say that if you experience debilitating effects for more than 3 months following your TBI, you may have a case for benefiting from a disability fund.

Possibility of Getting Disability for TBI

Mild traumatic brain injuries can heal in part or entirely over time, or be treated with the use of therapy and/or medication.  If, however, you feel that you have not benefited from time or therapy, you will be well advised to speak to a disability lawyer to help you gather and structure enough medical evidence to prove that your TBI is a disability.

To be eligible for the Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefit, you need to have paid SSA taxes, not be above their earning threshold, and have worked enough years to earn a certain amount of credits. The social security administration will assess if the head injury has or will have long term impact on cognitive abilities or the ability to maintain physical activities rquirements.

is a tbi a disability

Kinds of Disabilities caused by TBI

Traumatic brain injuries are considered mild if you were unconscious for less than 30 minutes, and severe if you were unconscious for more than 30 minutes. Some people can exhibit symptoms of a traumatic brain injury even if they were not unconscious at all, however, or severe symptoms if they had several mild injuries.

Severe and mild traumatic brain injuries can present with a host of symptoms that can be subdivided into four main kinds of disabilities, namely Cognitive, Sensory, Behavioral, and Communicative.

Helpful Reading: TBI Legal Rights

Symptoms of TBI

Depending on the severity of your traumatic brain injury and the efficacy of your treatment, your symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to a lifetime.

  1. Cognitive / Thinking Problems

  • Short term memory loss
  • Long term memory loss
  • Concentration
  • Shortened attention span
  • Clear thinking
  • Unusual difficulty solving problems
  • Reasoning
  • Headaches
  • Becoming easily confused
  • Other cognitive deficits
  1. Sensory Problems

  • Blindness or trouble seeing
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Trouble hearing
  • Tinnitus
  • Tingling / sensitive skin
  • Strange / no smells
  • Bad tastes
  • Motor function impairment
  • Other physical functions limitations
  1. Behavioral/Emotional Problems

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Sudden difficulty regulating emotions
  1. Communicative Problems

  • Unable to find words or complete coherent sentences
  • Trouble understanding what someone else is communicating
  • Speaking full, fluent sentences, but using random words that make no sense

How Do I Prove My TBI As A Disability?

You may qualify for traumatic brain injury disability if you can show that, for at least three consecutive months, you have been unable to properly control at least two of your extremities. Social security disability benefits will usually be determined after assessing the medical records or medical documentation to evaluate the extent of any physical and mental limitations. Alternatively, if the TBI is cognitive in nature, it needs to have a marked or extreme impact on your ability to think, understand and communicate, and therefore your ability to perform your job.

You will of course also need to supply supporting medical proof of your condition, such as MRI and CAT scans used to identify severe TBIs. Mild TBIs often need additional neuropsychological assessments. Any medical reports, proof of appropriate and medically advised therapy, hospital admissions, and even reports from coworkers or friends will aid your case.

If your TBI is found not to be severe enough to qualify as a disability, your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) will be evaluated to see whether you can perform a different job, or qualify for a medical-vocational allowance.

Disability Benefits of TBI

If you qualify for a traumatic brain injury disability payment, it will be under one or more of the following benefit types:

Loss of Future Earning Capacity

This secures a monthly payment to make up for the income you are no longer able to generate, due to your TBI, for the period you are expected to be incapacitated. It will be re-evaluated regularly though, so you will need to sustain any prescribed therapy and keep medical reports and test results going forward.

Back Payment

This is a lump sum payment for the time it takes from filing your claim to approving it.

Retroactive Payment

If you can prove that you had TBI resulting from the same incident your filing from, before you filed for disability benefit, you will receive retroactive payment.


Even mild traumatic brain injuries can have debilitating effects on your earning potential, but you may need some help to prove this. Call us today at (206) 826-8200 to get a free consultation and find out how Coluccio Law can help you with your TBI disability claim.

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