Indianapolis Social Security Lawyer Talks About Brain Injury

Normally when we talk about brain injury, we talk about it in the context of serious personal injury from, for example, drunk driving accidents, large truck accident, construction accident and highway accidents.  I want to talk today about brain injury in the context of the  Social Security Administration’s guidelines for disability.  You will remember from our previous discussions that there are two sets of rules used to determine whether a person is entitled to disability benefits; The Listings and The Medical Vocational Guidelines (The Grids). The listing specifically contains a listing for Brain Injury.  It is  in the Neurological section, Listing 11.18, Cerebral Trauma. As we also know medical documentation is crucial to establishing eligibility for disability. For brain injury, medical documentation of the acute phase (early on in the recovery) is usually easy to provide.  However, ongoing evidence of treatment in the post acute phase of recovery is also essential. 

This next part is for my readers who treat brain injury.  You can be of great assistance to your patient if, when you are asked to provide a report documenting your opinions about the patient’s ability to work, you write the report to include references to the medical record that support your opinions and conclusions.  Unsupported opinions carry little weight with the Social Security Administration.  Even if your opinions are dead on accurate,   if they are not supported by corresponding references to the record, you might as well have not taken the time to write the report. Please take your time when you write that report.  An accurate report to the SSA is very important to your patient’s well being.

Brain injury which causes severe neurological affect, i.e. paralysis, dysphasia, severe executive dysfunction, etc are fairly straight forward in terms of proof.  It is the brain injury which has responded well to treatment, but still leaves the survivor with subtle issues such as fatigue, short term memory loss and the need for increased completions times.  These survivors also face the well known prejudice, “They look okay, they must be okay”.  For these survivors, the report may well be the most important piece of evidence.  I also suggest letters from failed work attempt employers and or failed class teachers. Many times survivor’s recoveries are significant,  and relative to their immediate post injury condition, the patient is doing very well.  This, however, does not always mean the patient is back to their pre injury function or that they can return to employment. So, doctors, you must explain in your reports that although the patient has improved significantly, that does not mean they are employable in a competitive job.  You must point out why this is using references to your medical records.  Otherwise it is too easy for the SSA to say, well they look good and the doc says they are much improved, they must be able to work.

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