Over the past few decades, doctors have learned more about traumatic brain injury. They now know it is different for every person. The path to recovery is often long and uncertain. As someone living with TBI, you may be experiencing the emotional, physical and cognitive challenges that usually accompany this diagnosis.

The social security administration has finally realized the seriousness of TBI. In 2016, the SSA added the diagnosis to its “blue book” list of conditions that are eligible for social security disability benefits. You have to follow the SSA’s rules in order to qualify, however, and it may help to hire a lawyer to help with your application.

What is TBI?

The SSA defines TBI as injury caused by a blow to the head, penetration of brain tissue, or skull fracture. Falls, car accidents and sport accidents are common events that may lead to TBI. Some people may see symptoms improve or worsen after the original injury.

There are many kinds of TBI. A concussion is a form of mild TBI. Moderate to severe TBI has long-lasting affects on thinking, emotions, physical movement and personality. Rehabilitation can take months or years, with the injured person and their family most affected by the changes.

What Qualifies for SSD?

The social security administration may approve disability benefits for some people with TBI. They look for specific evidence that the TBI has affected your life. Specifically, your medical records should show:

  • Inability to control movement of at least two extremities, leading to problems standing, walking or using the arms, or;
  • Marked physical problems along with a marked limitation in thinking, social interaction, finishing tasks, controlling emotions or behavior.

The SSA wants to know that these changes remained for at least three months after the injury. Using this information, they make a judgment as to whether you are “disabled.”

However, that is not the end of the story. If you do not meet the disability criteria, the SSA may still decide you are eligible for benefits. The question is whether your TBI limits you enough that you are unable to perform a job.

At this stage, you may be asked to fill out two forms: 1) residual functional capacity and 2) mental residual function capacity. If your TBI affects you in many areas, the SSA may agree you are not able to go back to your job. However, in order to get benefits, you must not be able to perform any job. Watch our short video to learn more about TBI and CSF leaks.


If the SSA denies your application for benefits, all is not lost. There are several levels of reconsideration and appeal. Your lawyer can help you to understand the appeals process and how it may be different from your initial application.

What is a Compassionate Allowance?

In some cases, the SSD will fast-track the application for disability benefits. This is called a compassionate allowance. It is for people who very likely meet the disability criteria. If you are wondering if your TBI may be eligible for a compassionate allowance, you can raise the issue with your disability lawyer.

Who Can Help Me?

Applying for SSD benefits is time consuming. It is emotionally difficult. It requires a lot of paperwork and ticking the right “boxes” so the SSD knows your TBI qualifies for benefits. The Good Law Group has worked on SSD cases for more than 30 years. We can help you to understand the process. We take on the burden while you focus on healing. To learn more, contact us today.