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Basics of Traumatic Brain Injury

Posted By Berry Law Firm || 8-Feb-2016

During service, many veterans have received a traumatic brain injury (TBI) without
recognizing it. Some brain injuries are not apparent at the time but can have long lasting effects
on veterans later on in life. These effects are compensable and veterans can be missing out on
benefits they are entitled to by not reflecting on their experiences in service.
How do brain injuries occur in service?
TBI can come from multiple sources. A common cause are blasts such as an IED or land
mines. Veterans who experienced these in service do not necessarily have to have been thrown
by the blast - the blast wave can also have this effect. Another common cause is motor vehicle
accidents that happen while on active duty. These accidents can be service connected if on active
duty and frequently lead to brain injuries that may be overlooked due to other injuries.
Many veterans also played sports during their time in service. Some of these sports,
including tackle football, were played without wearing protective gear. It may not be apparent at
the time that the injury was incurred but several veterans have found out later that they have a
brain injury as a result of their time playing football or other sports during service. It should be
apparent that the causes of brain injuries are varied and may not be readily apparent on first
reflection of military service.
How do I know if I received a brain injury in service?
It is important to note that veterans do not have to be knocked out when they received the
injury. Symptoms that may have been experienced at the time are being dazed, ringing in the
ears, inability to hear, nausea, vomiting, or headache. These symptoms may not be apparent at the
time that a brain injury occurred or it may be so long ago that it is difficult to remember.
TBI can also have a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms later in life,
many of which overlap other conditions such as PTSD. Some common long-range symptoms are
headaches, aggression, irritability, sensitivity to light and sound, memory loss, depression,
tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and difficulty concentrating.
The VA likes to downplay TBI and attribute it to other conditions such as PTSD to avoid
assigning a higher rating and permanent and total ratings. Conditions such as PTSD and
headaches are noted by the VA to improve with time and require re-examinations every few
years. However, TBI does not improve and many veterans who are granted service connection for
TBI receive a permanent and total rating. As a result, veterans who claim TBI need to be
prepared before going into a C & P examination to avoid having the examiner brush off their
condition.
How can I prepare for a TBI C & P examination?
As mentioned in our post on how to prepare for C & P examinations one of the best tools
is to review the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for Traumatic Brain Injury accessible
through the VA’s website. It is helpful for veterans to go through the checklist and note which
symptoms apply to them, for how long those symptoms have persisted, and how those symptoms
affect their ability to function. While the VA encourages veterans to avoid bringing anything with
them into examinations, veterans should bring in notes to avoid leaving out important details of
symptoms they experience.
How might a TBI claim affect my other VA claims?
The VA has connected TBI to several diseases that are commonly experienced by
veterans, such as Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, depression, and diseases of hormone deficiency
from hypothalamo-pituitary changes - depending on when they developed after service. Veterans
who are diagnosed with these conditions should consider whether a traumatic brain injury might
be the source and consider pursuing service-connection through TBI.
Categories: Veterans Disability