Disability Benefits Through the Social Security Administration Are Available for People with Brain Injury

Disability Benefits Through the Social Security Administration Are Available for People with Brain Injury

My adult son, who sustained a TBI in a car crash three years ago, has been unable to work steadily since the injury and has fallen behind on his rent and his bills. My wife and I have bailed him out a few times, but unfortunately, we are not in a financial position to do this on a regular basis. He applied for disability and was denied. Is there anything else he can do?


Employment challenges frequently occur as a result of brain injury. Social and behavioral issues can interfere with an individual’s ability to obtain or keep a job.

Vocational rehabilitation services that provide work rehabilitation training and transitional services are offered in many states. For example, in New York State, Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) are offered by the New York State Department of Education and provide services to assist people with disabilities in obtaining a full range of employment and independent living arrangements throughout their lives. When these services are insufficient to allow an individual to obtain or continue employment then disability benefits should be sought through the Social Security Administration.

Often mental health problems are overlooked and not appropriately addressed in an application for social security benefits, and this omission may result in a denial of benefits. Depression, cognitive fatigue, and medication side effects can all contribute to the inability of an individual to maintain steady employment and must be spelled-out in the social security application and supported by the medical documentation that accompanies the application.

It is critically important that an application for social security disability benefits follows the criteria set forth by the Social Security Administration for disability caused by a brain injury. The key issue is not the original injury or treatment received, but establishing the individual’s present inability to be gainfully employed.

The following issues should be addressed in any application for traumatic brain injury-related disability:

Mental Abilities Needed For Any Job:

Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions:

  • The ability to remember locations and work procedures.
  • The ability to understand and remember very short and simple instructions.
  • The ability to maintain concentration and attention for extended periods of time.
  • The ability to perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances.
  • The ability to sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision.
  • The ability to work in coordination with or close proximity to others without being unduly distracted by them.
  • The ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods.

Use of judgment:

  • The ability to make simple work-related decisions.
  • The ability to be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions.

Responding appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations:

  • The ability to ask simple questions or request assistance.
  • The ability to accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors.
  • The ability to get along with coworkers or peers without unduly distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes.

It is important that a claimant’s prior work and social history be used to corroborate his or her inability to meet these criteria, and that the assistance of an attorney who specializes in social security disability claims be consulted at the time that an individual applies for social security disability benefits.


Posted on BrainLine January 7, 2013. Reviewed March 20, 2018.

About the author: Shana De Caro, Esq.

Shana De Caro, Esq. is partner at De Caro & Kaplen, LLP. Ms. De Caro serves on the board of directors for both the Brain Injury Association of America and the New York Academy of Trial Lawyers. She is first vice president of the American Academy of Brain Injury Attorneys and serves as secretary of the Civil Justice Foundation.

Shana De Caro

Comments (4)

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How do I find a workmans comp lawyer that is familiar with TBI?


I had a brain hemorrhage due to an anyurasurn rupture 13 years ago. It cloted and after being in the hospital for awhile I was released and monitored by my doctor for several months. Over the last 3 years  I have suffered severe pain on right side of my head where rupture occurred. I have lost the ability to focus on day to day routine details, i.e., memory loss, hand to eye tasks that I have done for several years I just draw a blank. The pain has become unbearable at times. My doctor and family advised me to file for disibility until my doctors can come up with some kind of treatment. I was turned down because 10 years ago I started my own company and my CPA didn't file ssi on me I have Worked since I was 16 years old, paid taxes just like everyone has to. At age 57 now I am told I don't qualify because the laws change five years ago. Not fare it seems that someone who really needs help from sSI can't get when we all know there are so many people out there getting all kinds a government assistance who are able to work. Can anyone please give advice to help me understand why our government continues to cut benefits for the elderly and not the con people out there who continue to minuipulate the system. 

this site preaches hope, but all I see is closed brick walls and desperation! 

In 1979 I suffered a gunshot wound to the head from a 22 cal pistol. I was in a coma for a while. Now at 43 years old I am having issues with memory loss and nerve regeneration that is unbearable. I also suffer ptsd from the accident. It has taken over my life. Help please.