Traumatic brain injuries (“TBI”) are among the most common for veterans. Statistics show that 19 percent of veterans may have TBI and that over 260,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with TBI. Some TBI’s are easy to diagnose, such as being shot in the head; however, TBI is on a spectrum from mild to severe. In this article, we discuss ongoing medical research with respect to mild TBI (“mTBI”) and how that might lead to what is termed post-concussion syndrome (“PCS”). If you are a New Orleans veteran with symptoms of PCD, other forms of TBI or severe TBI, then call Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. You might be eligible to apply for VA disability benefits. Consider us your New Orleans VA disability lawyers.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys: Open TBI vs. Closed TBI — Mild to Severe
Traumatic brain injuries are generally categorized as resulting from an “open” or “closed” traumatic event. As one might expect, an “open” event TBI is one where the skull is ruptured in some manner (such as a bullet or cracking or breaking of the skull bone). Open-skull TBIs tend to be the most severe and have the most long-lasting effects. See Mayo Clinic fact page here.
But, as noted above, a closed-event TBI may be just as injurious. In a closed-event TBI, the brain itself is injured by being thrust up against and compressed against the hard skull. A blow to the head, striking your head during a fall and similar events are examples. However, a physical blow to the head is not the only method of receiving a closed-event TBI. Any event that causes a whiplash-effect can produce the same injury/compression of the brain. Further, certain types of injuries to the neck and head can cause bleeding, swelling and tearing of the brain tissue. And blast pressure waves can also be categorized as closed-event TBIs.
New Orleans Veterans’ Disability Attorneys: Combat-Related Examples of TBI Causes
The most common open-event TBIs result from debris penetrations, bone fragment penetrations, and skull fractures. Combat-related examples include:
- Gunshot wounds;
- Bayonet, knife or other cutting weapon wounds to the head;
- Shrapnel or debris breaching the skull; and
- Falls or bodily collisions with objects following a blast that cracks or crushes the skull.
The most common closed-event TBIs include contusions (brain bruising), concussions (blood vessels in the brain being stretched which can cause damage to the nerves) and “diffuse axonal injuries” (the technical term for whiplash injuries). Closed-event TBI’s for veterans might include:
- Falls — from accidental falls to falls caused by blasts or efforts to avoid casualty; for civilians, falls are the most common cause of mTBI.
- Vehicle-related — collisions, crashes and similar; again, such crashes might be accidental or the result of enemy action; striking one’s head against the hard interior of vehicles can cause TBI.
- Hand-to-hand combat and other violence — any blow to the head can cause TBI.
- Violent shaking — can result from many events such as crashes, mortars, grenades and blast explosions.
- Explosive blasts with physical effect — shaking and being thrown against hard surfaces.
- Explosive blasts with only pressure wave impact — the Mayo Clinic admits that TBI injury from wave impact is not “well-understood;” theories include brain compression by the wave or simply that the pressure wave passing through the brain significantly disrupts brain function.
As indicated, a compensable TBI does not have to result from enemy action or engagement. A “typical” civilian-like accident can lead to TBI for which you might be eligible for disability benefits.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys: Medical Science is Catching Up
Medical science is slowly catching up on the long-term debilitating effects of TBI. Two medical researchers from the Boston VA healthcare system argue that the soldiers who suffered “shell shock” in WWI undoubtedly suffered from TBI as a result of the constant shelling during the trench warfare. However, it was not medically understood at the time.
Since then, medical science has been advancing. For example, among civilians, there has been a tremendous amount of research concerning TBI injuries caused during automobile collisions.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys: mTBI Disabling 10% – 15% of the Time
According to the medical article linked above, mTBI is the most common form of TBI for military personnel — a concussion, for example. According to the researchers, for most soldiers, symptoms from a concussion “… are usually self-limited and resolve spontaneously over a period of a few weeks …” However, according to their research, 10–15 percent of soldiers develop prolonged symptoms. This is termed postconcussive syndrome (“PCS”). Symptoms of PCS include:
- Sleep disturbance;
- Poor concentration;
- Pain; and
- Psychological distress.
Just as importantly, according to the researchers, their evidence suggests that even a SINGLE closed-event TBI can produce physical changes to the brain which are visible. In particular, there is visible atrophy of gray and white brain matter atrophy. Moreover, mTBI can precipitate or accelerate age-related neurodegeneration, and increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and motor neuron disease. Further, according to their research, repetitive closed-event TBIs can provoke the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. All of these are serious long-term disabling conditions.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys: Application Process and Medical Tests
As with any application for VA disability benefits, proving PCS or mTBI will depend on the evidence in your service record and medical records/doctor’s reports. Key tests will be: (1) CAT or MRI scanning, (2) neuropsychological testing and (3) tests assessing behavioral and cognitive functioning. These can show if there is physical damage to the brain. Physical damage or degeneration is not essential, but makes it easier to obtain a disability rating.
We here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC have the experience to know what evidence is best suited to help you succeed with your application for benefits. Sometimes, the most important step is alerting the VA and the physicians that your condition is PCS or mTBI.
Contact New Orleans SSDI/VA Benefits Law Firm Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC Today
If you suffered an in-service open- or closed-event TBI and are now exhibiting symptoms of mTBI, PCS or sTBI as a result, seek the help of experienced New Orleans VA disability benefits attorneys here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. Your TBI or PCS might entitle you to disability benefits. Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC can help. We have extensive experience helping New Orleans, Louisiana veterans apply for VA disability. Contact an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer today at Ascend Disability via email or phone.