Veterans Disability Info Blog

Advancements in TBI Research: How They Benefit Veterans

A TBI, or traumatic brain injury, has been experienced by a great many veterans on active duty. The VA explains that TBIs are commonly caused by motor vehicle crashes, and falls, in addition to blasts and explosions. In fact, between 2000 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense had more than 375,000 cases of TBI in members of the U.S. Armed Forces across the globe. Advancements in TBI research have helped us to better understand what a TBI is, the symptoms that demonstrate it, and how these can be detected and treated. 

If you or a loved one has encountered an event during active duty that could have caused a traumatic brain injury, you could be entitled to extensive VA disability benefits with a TBI VA rating. These benefits cover any and all medical treatments linked to your condition, depending on how your disability is rated by the VA, as well as the amount in monthly payments you are entitled to. 

A veterans disability benefits lawyer can assist you if you have a claim that has been granted but with a rating that is too low, or denied but is not yet appealed. We can help you receive an accurate assessment of how your TBI is impacting your life and ability to work now and to receive an accurate and updated TBI VA rating from the VA that translates into your benefits. 

What is TBI? Traumatic Brain Injury Defined 

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is defined by the CDC as “an injury that affects how the brain works.” TBI is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Experiencing a TBI can lead to a variety of additional health problems, as damage to the brain can impact how the mind functions, and how the mind is capable of controlling the body. The long-term, life-altering implications of a TBI can lead to permanent disability. 

When a veteran experiences a blow or jolt to the head during service, the injury can cause a TBI. A TBI can impact your physical functions, ability to think, your behavior, and other factors of your life. The extent of a TBI ranges from mild to severe, with the severity of your condition impacting the level to which it changes your life and ability to work.  Sometimes, we have had clients suffer TBI in service and retain their memory and cognition.  But the TBI affects their personalities, turning responsible and respectful military personnel into irresponsible and irreverent individuals who often get kicked out of the service with other-than-honorable discharges.  

The Causes of TBI and the Link Between TBI and Active Military Service 

The VA notes that tens of thousands of veterans in the U.S. Armed Forces across the globe experience a TBI each year. Common causes of TBIs include:

  • Experiencing a blow to your head from an object, which could include a fist during a fight
  • Your head striking another object, such as the interior of a vehicle during an accident
  • The impact that your head experiences from a nearby blast or explosion 

According to the VA, veterans with TBI can also experience an increase in the risk of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. If you have experienced an injury to your head or been exposed to a blast or explosion while on active service, symptoms of a TBI to watch out for include: 

  • Problems hearing or speaking
  • Headaches 
  • Blurred vision
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • A change in your sense of taste or smell
  • Dizziness 
  • Repeating yourself 
  • Angering or becoming frustrated easily 

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. If you have already been granted service connection for VA disability benefits for TBI, and notice these symptoms getting worse, you could be eligible for an increased rating claim to adjust your VA disability rating to account for the more severe symptoms, as we’ll discuss below. 

Advancements in the Detection of TBI 

As explained by the VA, all veterans who have served in combat operations “must undergo mandatory TBI screening”. These veterans must complete a four-question screen, which is meant to identify veterans who have been exposed to events that result in an increase in the risk for TBI, and who have symptoms that could be related to that specific event or events. Recognizing that your brain chemistry can be forever changed as a result of a car accident, whiplash, a fall, an explosion, or a variety of other experiences during active duty, underlines the importance of seeking out effective evaluations of your condition. 

Your VA provider will explain the results of comprehensive evaluations that will be undertaken with the veteran. The VA will seek to determine the full extent of your injuries, and will also recommend follow-on care with primary care and other specialty providers, as needed depending upon the circumstances of your TBI. 

One of the benefits of working with a VA disability attorney, if you have a supplemental claim or have been denied in your TBI-related claim, is our network of medical and occupational experts. We will help you schedule appointments with medical and occupational experts to determine the full extent of your TBI-related injuries and conditions. Upon doing so, the occupational expert then applies the medical assessment to a consideration of how it will impact your ability to work. The purpose of VA disability payments is to cover the diminishment in your earning ability that might be caused from your service-connected injuries and resulting disabilities. 

Treatment Improvements and TBI-Related Conditions 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that TBI is a leading cause of chronic disability. In fact, TBI is the leading cause of disability in persons under the age of 40. TBIs lead to injuries that require extensive and costly treatment. The broad and far-reaching costs linked to TBI-related disabilities have led to the development of advancements in rehabilitation and treatment methods to better help those impacted by the condition. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Has Been Found to Relieve TBI

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is the inhalation of 100 percent oxygen under a certain pressure. It has been proven to inhibit apoptosis, to suppress inflammation, to protect the blood-brain barrier’s integrity, and also to promote neurogenesis and angiogenesis. This essentially means that the treatment is capable of helping to improve upon some of the symptoms that veterans experience due to their TBI. 

Up to the present time, HBOT has been found to be the most important clinical therapy for TBI. The use of HBOT for persons with chronic brain injury has been found to improve cerebral blood flow (CBF), and also to have resulted in the reduction of the symptoms of neuropsychological disorders. HBOT has also been found to improve the quality of life of the individual receiving treatment. 

Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Positively Supports Rehabilitation 

The treatment known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), as well as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDSC), have positive effects on patients undergoing rehabilitation for TBI. rTMS can alter neuronal excitability and has been successfully used to treat depression, schizophrenia, aphasia, and cognitive impairment. 

One of the potential side effects of TBI in veterans is depression and anxiety. It could be possible that noninvasive brain stimulation therapies would have a positive benefit on your TBI. To receive the treatments that could improve upon your symptoms, our network of medical professionals may be able to help with referrals. Emerging and experimental treatments to improve upon TBI rehabilitation efforts can not only improve your quality of life but also support your level of productivity at work. 

Virtual Reality and Computer-Aided Training Helps TBI Patients 

With the advent of new technologies, TBI research and treatments have also evolved. Virtual reality and computer-aided training have been applied to:

  • Simulate audial, visual, and game-associated intuiting training 
  • To engage different components of impairment including memory, visual perception, and attention 
  • To realize a substantial increase in patient interest and their enthusiasm to participate in the treatment

Virtual reality (VR) has been found to promote integration between computer technology and computer science to realize substantial advantages in the assessment and training of cognitive impairment. During the process of providing VR, personalized and customized procedures are employed to reduce the duration of direct contact between the therapist and the patient. This has been found to improve patient attention and memory, and also to improve upon their mood. 

VR training and assessment systems for TBIs are also useful in providing a comprehensive assessment of a patient’s motor and cognitive function, and how this impacts their daily life skills and social skills. Given the many issues and delays that were experienced during the pandemic concerning the assessment of veterans, their appointments, and disability application hearings, VR may present a valuable pathway for persons who are disabled, or during a public health emergency, to have their VA disability accurately rated. 

Collecting the compensation and treatment that your service-connected injury demands can be difficult, and a veterans benefits attorney can help.

How and When a Veterans Benefits Lawyer Can Assist with Your Claim

To begin, veterans have a right to receive free assistance drafting their initial VA disability application provided by a VA-accredited party, such as a veterans service officer (“VSO”). You can either file your claim online yourself at the VA’s website, fill out and file VA Form 21-526EZ, which you can download here, at your local VA office, or through an accredited representative. 

When you need help filing a claim or appeal, as clarified by the VA, you have the option of working with an accredited attorney, claims agent, or a Veterans Service Office (VSO). Such professionals are trained and certified in the VA claims and appeals process. While attorneys cannot be paid for assistance during your initial application, we can help you through the appeals process if you are denied. 

Upgrade Your VA Disability Rating 

When your service-connected condition worsens after you have already received a VA disability rating for it, you are able to file an increased rating claim with the VA. These are permissible when your condition has changed for the worse, or additional symptoms have developed. For example, current TBI research has identified a strong link between TBI and mental health ailments including depression and anxiety. If you suffer from depression linked to your TBI but it is not part of your VA disability rating, you can file to ensure that this is accounted for in your TBI VA rating. 

If you filed for an increase in your TBI VA rating and it was denied because VA did not have key records documenting your symptoms, you can appeal it by filing a supplemental claim to include the new evidence.  To file a supplemental claim you must meet the following requirements: 

  • You’ve received a rating decision in the past, and: 

Additionally, you must meet one of the following requirements: 

  • It is required that you have new evidence that is relevant to your claim to submit, or
  • You are requesting a review of your claim based on a change in law, such as the PACT Act and other laws that may impact your eligibility for coverage. 

New evidence is information that you did not submit in the past with your prior application/s, or identify for the VA to gather on your behalf. Relevant evidence is something that could either prove or disprove an aspect of your claim. When you have the potential to file a supplemental claim, it is helpful to gather additional evidence concerning your condition to apply to your application. The rating that you receive for your VA disability determines the amount of tax-free payments that you and your family are eligible to receive.  The best way to look at the new and relevant evidence requirement is to ascertain the reason why VA denied the claim, and then submit new evidence that addresses the VA’s reasons for denial.  For example, if the VA denies the claim because there was no evidence of a current diagnosis (but all the other elements were met), then submitting evidence of an in-service occurrence is not relevant.

The purpose of VA disability compensation is to make up for any diminished earning capacity that your disability causes. When your condition worsens or secondary conditions develop, your ability to work and produce can decrease. An effective supplemental claim could make the difference between financial stability and hardship for you and your family. We understand this and take your supplemental claim or appeal seriously. 

Connect with a Veterans Disability Benefits Attorney 

If you have filed a VA claim and been denied, or if your condition has changed and you need help filing a supplemental claim, a veterans benefits lawyer from our firm can help. We will take the time to listen to the unique facts and circumstances of your situation, and if we can take your appeal or supplemental claim, you’ll be informed and supported throughout the entire process.  Call us today at 1-888-878-9350

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If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.