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The symptoms of a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) can prevent you from working and qualify you for disability benefits. A TBI can occur from a head injury while playing sports or it can happen in a car accident. Also, combat veterans may suffer from a head injury from a bomb blast or IED. At our office, we have also seen cases where head injuries occur from individuals falling off of a roof, off of a ladder, or scaffolding and hitting their head on the ground.

Most people can recover from a TBI with sleep, resting during the day, avoiding electronics and stress. Even with slowing down daily activities and hours of rest, you may not be able to recover quickly. If a TBI is severe, then some individuals can be off work for over 2 years.

TBI brain injury for disability


In order to determine if you have a serious TBI, instead of a mild TBI, your doctor may perform the following tests:


  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. This test is usually first done in an emergency room for a suspected traumatic brain injury. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create a detailed view of the brain. A CT scan can quickly uncover evidence of bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), blood clots (hematomas), bruised brain tissue (contusions), and brain swelling.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses powerful radio waves and magnets to create an intricate view of the brain. The MRI test may be used after the person’s condition stabilizes. It may also be done if symptoms don’t improve soon after the injury.


There are time, when a TBI is severe, that medications are used to limit additional damage to the brain immediately after an injury occurs:

  • Anti-seizure drugs. People who have a moderate to severe TBI are at risk of having seizures during the first week after their injury. An anti-seizure medication may be given during the first week to avoid any additional brain damage that might be caused by a seizure.
  • Coma-inducing drugs. Doctors sometimes use drugs to put people into temporary comas because a comatose brain uses less oxygen. This is especially helpful to the individual with the TIB if compressed blood vessels in the brain are unable to supply brain cells with healthy amounts of nutrients and oxygen.


Emergency surgery may be done to minimize damage to the brain. Surgery may be used for the following problems:

  • Removing clotted blood (hematomas). Bleeding outside or inside the brain can result in a collection of clotted blood (hematoma) that puts pressure on and damages brain tissue.
  • Repairing skull fractures. A surgeon may do surgery to repair severe skull fractures or to remove pieces of skull in the brain.
  • Bleeding in the brain. Head injuries that cause bleeding in the brain may need surgery to stop the bleeding.
  • Opening a window in the skull. Surgery may be performed to relieve pressure inside the skull by draining excess cerebrospinal fluid or creating a window in the skull that provides more room for swollen tissues.


If you are unable to work due to a TBI, you may qualify for disability benefits.  The SSA states there are certain examples of neuro-cognitive disorders that they evaluate under listing 12.02. For example, the SSA considers dementia of the Alzheimer type to be a major neurocognitive disorder. Other examples include vascular dementia; dementia due to a medical condition such as a metabolic disease (for example, late-onset Tay-Sachs disease), human immunodeficiency virus infection, vascular malformation, and progressive brain tumor. Other neurological diseases include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsonian syndrome, and Huntington disease.  Traumatic brain injury can also include substance-induced cognitive disorder due to drug abuse, medications, or toxins.

The SSA uses Listing 12.02 to define the symptoms of a TBI that qualifies for disability benefits. Below is listing 12.02, which outlines the symptoms that you must document to prove disability.


12.02 Neurocognitive disorders, satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical documentation of a significant cognitive decline from a prior level of functioning in one or more of the cognitive areas:
    1. Complex attention;
    2. Executive function;
    3. Learning and memory;
    4. Language;
    5. Perceptual-motor; or
    6. Social cognition.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).

If you have these symptoms, to the level outlined in listing 12.02, you should be eligible for disability benefits. When you have all of the symptoms, because your disability meets the listing. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Utah, Nevada, or Oregon, the listing is the same throughout the United States. However, you must have your treating physician document the symptoms of your TBI as they appear in listing 12.02. Because medical records and your doctor’s opinion that you have a disabling TBI is crucial to winning your Social Security Disability benefits.


Your treating physician must document your TBI or neurocognitive disorder. Typically, this means that your doctor will outline if you have had a significant decline in cognitive functioning. You may also have disturbances in memory. This could take the form of short-term memory loss, like losing your keys, phone, or being unable to remember your address.

Additionally, a TBI can impact your executive functioning. Executive functioning is higher-level cognitive processes. For example, this would be being able to regulate your attention or being able to plan for the future. Executive function is also seen in decision-making, visual-spatial functioning, language and speech, perception, insight, judgment, and insensitivity to social standards. What is not part of 12.02, are impairments such as an intellectual disorder (12.05), autism spectrum disorder (12.10), and neuro-developmental disorders (12.11).


If you have a TBI or other form of brain disorder and you can no longer work, contact Cannon Disability Law today. It is likely that we will be able to take your case and represent you before the Social Security Administration. We can usually tell you over the phone whether you qualify to apply for benefits.

At Cannon Disability, we help our client’s file their application. We also help you appeal any SSA denial. Additionally, we represent you in court before the SSA judge. Most importantly, we will represent you without charging you an attorney fee. We only charge you an attorney fee if we win your case. If we do not win, you do not owe an attorney fee. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by contacting Cannon Disability Law and choosing us as your legal team. Give us a call today.


Our representatives want to be your Social Security disability legal team. We bring over 60 years of combined experience to your disability case. For instance, Dianna Cannon has been representing people with disabilities for over thirty years. She also has experience representing clients at the Appeals Council and in Federal Court. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of litigation experience representing clients in disability hearings. You can trust that our representatives will do everything they can to win your SSD and SSI benefits.

Many people think they need to hire an attorney where they live, but you don’t have to hire an attorney near you. Instead, you can hire the attorney with the most experience. We can represent you no matter what state you live in, because we are licensed in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and California. It is always our goal to win disability benefits for our clients. But it is also our goal to make the disability review process easier for you. Contact our legal team today and put our years of experience to work for you.

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