Children and adults in Michigan may experience an injury to the brachial plexus. However, brachial plexus injuries most commonly occur during birth. If your child sustained a brachial plexus injury during delivery, he or she may qualify for Social Security benefits if it results in severe and chronic disability.

The spinal nerves of the lower neck and upper back send nerve fibers into the upper extremities to relay messages between the brain and the motor muscles. These fibers form an organizational network at the point where the neck and the shoulder meet called the brachial plexus. Forces that cause the nerve fibers to tear or stretch can result in brachial plexus injuries. During delivery, traction on the baby’s head can supply the necessary force to cause a BPI.

According to the Social Security Administration, your child does not automatically qualify for benefits due to a BPI. His or her eligibility depends on a number of factors.

Type of injury

Different conditions can result from damage to different areas of the brachial plexus. An injury to the lower brachial plexus can result in Klumpke’s palsy, which affects the hand and forearm. Such injuries are relatively rare, but the prognosis is not very good.

A more common condition is Erb’s palsy, which results from an injury to the upper brachial plexus and does not affect the hand. The prognosis is better in cases of Erb’s palsy.

Permanency

If the nerve fibers become torn, the damage is more likely to be permanent. However, it may be possible to recover from an injury in which the nerve fibers merely become stretched.

Severity

Some BPIs are more serious than others, and severe injuries are more likely to qualify for benefits. For example, the SSA considers a bilateral BPI, i.e., injuries affecting both upper extremities, to be quite severe.

Other impairments

Your child may have one or more other conditions in combination with BPI. If so, this complicating factor could qualify your child to receive Social Security benefits where a brachial plexus injury on its own would not be sufficient.

The SSA will have to consider all the available evidence to determine whether a brachial plexus injury qualifies your child for Social Security benefits.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.