Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The VA awards disability compensation for conditions that are service-connected. The DoD will also rate service-connected conditions as long as they also make the service member Unfit for Duty. For Reservists, the condition must have occurred in the Line of Duty to qualify.

traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a condition where the brain is damaged because of a traumatic event. A “traumatic event” is any event, like a car accident, IED blast, gunshot wound, falling and hitting your head, etc., that causes damage to the brain.

Traumatic events often cause other conditions in addition to brain injury (broken bones, lacerations, etc.). Any condition caused by the traumatic event that is not the result of the brain injury can be rated separately. All conditions resulting directly from the damage to the brain are rated under the TBI Rating System

In order to be rated for Traumatic Brain Injury, documentation of the initial TBI must be submitted along with any claim. If there are multiple documented TBI’s, then the symptoms of all of them will be considered and rated together. 

Rating Traumatic Brain Injury is incredibly difficult due to the complexity of the brain. The brain controls every function in the entire body, whether it be voluntary or involuntary. Traumatic Brain Injury can affect one, many, or all functions of the body, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Because of the vast variety of problems a brain injury can cause, each case is unique. 

The Traumatic Brain Injury Rating System takes into account each symptom a veteran develops as a result of their brain injury. The symptoms can last a few days or be permanent. Some symptoms develop immediately following the injury, while others don’t appear until years later. As long as the symptoms can be clearly linked in medical records to the brain injury (and not another cause), they can be rated under Traumatic Brain Injury. The DoD will only rate the symptoms present at the time of discharge, but the VA can rate any symptoms that develop over time. 

Because of the Pyramiding Principle, a single symptom can only be rated once. When applying the Traumatic Brian Injury Rating System, take care to not violate the Pyramiding Principle. If two different rating options both cover the same symptom, then both cannot be used. 

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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) FAQs

How will the VA rate my Traumatic Brain Injury?

The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate TBI on the symptoms that it causes. Check out our TBI Rating System page for full details on the code and rating options.

My TBI symptom wasn't diagnosed until after I was discharged. Can it qualify for VA disability?

As long as you can clearly prove that the symptom was definitely the result of the Traumatic Brain Injury and no other cause, it can qualify. Make sure to check to see if your condition is on the TBI Secondary Conditions Presumptive List, as that will make it easier to prove service-connection.

Are my conditions eligible for a rating?

Your conditions are eligible to be rated by the VA if they are the result of your military service. You must be able to show proof of service-connection for each condition. For the DoD, they will rate your service-connected conditions as long as they also make you Unfit for Duty.

How do I apply to receive my ratings?

If you are still in the military, then you can request your military physician to refer you to the MEB and start the IDES process. If you are already a veteran, you can submit a VA Disability Claim along with evidence of service-connection and all medical records regarding the conditions on the claim.

If my claim is approved, what benefits will I receive?

If you are rated 20% or less from the DoD, then you will receive a single separation payment. If you are rated 30% or more, you will receive full retirement benefits. From the VA, you will receive a monthly payment as well as full medical care from the VA for the qualifying conditions.

How long does it take to receive my disability benefits?

Brand new claims usually take 3-6 months to process. Once processed, you will start receiving payments in 1-3 months.

How are the rating percentages assigned to my conditions?

The rules of the VA's Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) are used to assign rating percentages to conditions. The VASRD gives rating rules for conditions based on their symptoms, treatment options, and the resulting level of disability they cause.

My Traumatic Brain Injury symptoms have worsened. How do I increase my rating percentages?

If your symptoms have worsened since you last applied and now qualify for a higher rating, you can submit a new claim, checking the box for an increased evaluation. If there are any new secondary conditions, then you can submit a new claim for them as secondary to your TBI.

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