Traumatic Brain Injury
Many veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have suffered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which is a form of acquired brain injury where sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Soldiers in combat can sustain TBI by blast exposure, sudden blunt force trauma to the head, or foreign objects hitting the head and piercing the skull. Many veterans have sustained TBI in non-combat situations while in service, such as in motor vehicle accidents, other accidents, sports and falls. Symptoms of TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some long term symptoms of TBI are: headache, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, seizures, depression, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking.
The VA instituted a new rating schedule for TBI in October 2008; the prior rating schedule was deemed to be completely inadequate to compensate for disabilities resulting from TBI. The new rating schedule applies to all VA claim filed after October 22, 2008; however, the old rating criteria still apply to claims filed before that date.
Under the new rating schedule, veterans with TBI may be compensated for TBI residuals in the following categories:
- Emotional/behavioral residuals
- Physical (neurologic) dysfunction
- Subjective symptoms
- Cognitive impairment residuals.
Traumatic Brain Injury often occurs at the same time as mental health disabilities, which are evaluated under the “emotional/behavior residuals” category. For mental health conditions which do not rise to the level of a separate mental disorder, they are simply evaluated under this category. However, veterans with TBI and diagnosed mental health disabilities will receive a separate rating for that mental health disability.
Special Monthly Compensation for TBI
Veterans with TBI may be eligible for an additional Special Monthly Compensation monetary benefit if, due to TBI residuals, the veteran is in need of aid and attendance, and would require hospitalization, nursing home care, or other residential institutional care in the absence of regular in-home aid and attendance.