New insights into complex, disabling brain injuries

Bomb blasts are a common cause of injuries among veterans. According to USA Today, improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs were top causes of troop injury in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brain injuries resulting from these blasts may be especially devastating, as any SSD attorney in Illinois is aware. Alarmingly, new research suggests these injuries are distinct from other brain injuries.

Unusual damage

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that bomb-blast injuries may produce unique brain lesions. The researchers examined the brains of five veterans who passed away between ages 23 and 38. All five had experienced explosive blasts during combat. The researchers discovered that the associated brain damage formed a distinct pattern.

The observed damage affected the region of the brain responsible for cognitive control functions. These functions include rational thinking, decision-making and short-term memory. Damage to this part of the brain may cause mood swings, poor impulse control and behavioral changes. Cognitive changes, such as memory problems, may also result.

Tragically, over 300,000 American servicemembers have suffered brain injuries, many involving explosive blasts, since 2000. Research suggests another 33,000 brain injuries went undetected between 2003 and 2010. Many affected veterans may suffer lingering symptoms that make returning to regular activities, including work, difficult. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to veterans with especially severe injuries.

Claiming brain injuries

As any SSD attorney in Illinois knows, a brain injury may qualify for benefits in various ways. First, brain injuries are included in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” of impairments. Brain injuries may be evaluated under various listings, depending on the complications they cause. These include:

  • Organic mental disorder — the disorder must cause significant changes in cognitive ability, including documented IQ loss.
  • Stroke — stroke may qualify for benefits if certain symptoms persist for at least three months despite medication.
  • Epilepsy — convulsive or non-convulsive epilepsy may merit benefits.

Brain injuries that don’t meet these requirements may still qualify for benefits. If a person cannot work due to impairing effects of a brain injury, the person may receive a medical-vocational allowance. The person’s injury, skills, work experience, education and age help determine whether an allowance is awarded.

People seeking medical-vocational allowances should support their claims with detailed evidence. This could include MRIs, cognitive tests and statements from physicians. A physician-completed Residual Functional Capacity form, which details limitations associated with the injury, may be impactful. Statements from personal sources can also highlight the daily impacts of the injury.

Even with extensive documentation, establishing the severity and impacts of a brain injury can be difficult. An SSD attorney in Illinois may be able to assist people seeking benefits for these injuries.