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Can You Get Social Security (SSDI) for a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Team of brain injury doctors reviewing MRI of the brain.

Navigating SSDI applications in Mississippi for brain injury victims

For Americans disabled by brain injuries and unable to work, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits offer essential financial support. Yet, the application process is often complex and daunting. Tabor Law Firm, P.A., with offices in Ridgeland and Jackson, Mississippi, is dedicated to assisting individuals with TBI in accessing their rightful SSDI benefits. During March's Brain Injury Awareness Month, we're focusing on educating those affected by brain injuries about their benefit eligibility.

Qualifying for SSDI with a TBI

The Brain Injury Association of America has highlighted a significant challenge faced by individuals applying for SSDI: approximately 70% of initial applications are rejected. This statistic underscores the critical importance of understanding and meeting the Social Security Administration's (SSA) stringent work and medical criteria to qualify for benefits, especially for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

To be considered eligible for SSDI due to TBI, the SSA has outlined specific conditions that must be met, focusing on the extent of impairment caused by the injury. These conditions include:

  • Impaired Motor Function: This refers to significant difficulties in controlling movement in two or more extremities (arms or legs), which directly impacts the ability to perform basic movements such as standing up from a seated position or maintaining balance while walking. This level of impairment reflects a profound limitation in mobility and physical independence.
  • Severe Limitations in Physical Movements and Cognitive Functions: Beyond physical impairments, TBIs can severely affect cognitive abilities. Eligibility under this criterion requires evidence of significant difficulties in cognitive functions, including but not limited to memory, concentration, the ability to follow directions, adaptability to new situations, and interpersonal skills. These limitations can severely impact an individual's daily functioning and their ability to maintain employment.

For individuals whose TBIs do not meet the SSA's criteria for full SSDI benefits, there is an alternative pathway to pursue compensation: the assessment of "Residual Functional Capacity" (RFC). RFC is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's remaining ability to perform work-related activities despite their impairment. This assessment takes into account both physical and cognitive capacities, including strength, dexterity, mental abilities, and emotional stability, to determine the range of work an individual can still do.

Securing SSDI benefits based on RFC involves demonstrating how the TBI has concretely affected the applicant's capacity to work, considering their skills, experience, and education. It's a more nuanced approach that requires detailed documentation and, often, expert testimonies.

SSDI application steps

The SSDI application involves several stages:

  1. Initial Application: Submitting detailed evidence of the injury and its impact. The Social Security Administration may take 3-4 months to decide.
  2. Reconsideration: If denied, there's a 60-day window to appeal. The review process extends over several months.
  3. Hearing: Denied reconsiderations can lead to a hearing with a judge, offering a higher chance of success but potentially taking a year.
  4. Appeals Council: A further denial can be appealed to the Social Security Appeals Council, though they often uphold prior decisions.
  5. Federal Court: The final step for unresolved claims is to bring the case before a federal district court.

How our disability attorneys can help

Our Social Security Disability lawyers at Tabor Law Firm, P.A. have the knowledge and experience to guide brain injury victims through the SSDI application, ensuring all medical evidence is accurately compiled and effectively advocating for your case. If you're in Mississippi dealing with the aftermath of a TBI and considering SSDI, contact us for a free consultation to learn more about your potential options and eligibility.

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