What is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Although the name seems self-explanatory, TBI is a complicated condition rated by the VA based on the severity of its side effects. TBI refers to a condition where the brain is damaged by a significant trauma to the head from a “traumatic event.” A traumatic event can be a car accident, IED blast, gunshot wound, or a fall causing the veteran to hit his or her head.
Symptoms of TBI can vary, including changes in a person’s ability to think, difficulty with controlling emotions, walking, or speaking, and also impairment of a claimant’s sense of sight or hearing. Mild TBI often involves short-term change or loss in consciousness. Severe TBI refers to longer periods of both. It is important to keep in mind that, while TBI affects a person’s physical functioning, it can also affect his or her emotional wellbeing in the forms of insomnia, depression and anxiety as secondary symptoms of TBI.
How the VA Rates TBI
The VA gives disability ratings to veterans based on the residuals of TBI according to four categories: (1) emotional/behavioral, (2) physical dysfunction, (3) subjective symptoms, and (4) cognitive impairment. If a residual of TBI is ratable under an appropriate diagnostic code in the rating schedule, then the residual should be rated under the schedule accordingly. For example, if a residual of TBI is depression, then the condition of depression is rated according to the schedule for mental disorders. If there is no appropriate diagnostic code for a residual, then the residual is rated according to the TBI rating table entitled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified.”
If you had a TBI rating prior to October 23, 2008, then you are eligible to have that rating reviewed and evaluated under the new criteria to see if your residuals are entitled to a higher rating under the new schedule.