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Traumatic brain injuries and Social Security benefits

Our readers have likely heard about the news on brain injuries in the NFL. Late last month, the NFL agreed to settle litigation involving 4,500 former athletes over allegations that the league hadn’t done enough to protect players from the long-term consequences of concussions. Research has increasingly shown over the years that there are serious consequences to repeated head injuries.

 Diagnosing concussion isn’t always easy, and the NFL has been accused of not taking adequate care in the past with ensuring players are not thrown back into the game after a head injury. The long-term consequences of this lack of care have resulted in depression, dementia, difficulties with concentration and sleep, tremors and numerous other symptoms of brain degeneration. 

Brain injuries obviously can have an enormous impact on the life of their victims. Social Security disability benefits are available for qualifying applicants with brain injuries, and for those who qualify, such benefits can be a critical source of support. In order to qualify, one must provide the proper evidence.

In its listing of impairments, the Social Security Administration points out that the medical findings immediately following a traumatic brain injury do not necessarily reflect the actual severity of the impairment, which may not actually be apparent until 6 months or so after the injury takes place.

There are some cases in which severe neurological impairment from a brain injury is enough to cause the agency to make a determination in favor of disability within three months of the injury. The determination will have to come later if such evidence is not present. Obviously, it is important to provide adequate evidence of injury. Without doing so, the Social Security Administration may not be able to make a positive finding when they otherwise could. 

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Concussion settlement highlights difficulty of proving brain damage,” Melissa Healy, August 29, 2013. 

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