Concussions, Head Injuries, and Social Security Disability

August 15,2016
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White Plains Social Security Disability: Concussions and Head Injuries

You’re 50 years old and have worked steadily for the last 30 years.  You suffered a concussion and a broken leg in a car accident 6 months ago.  Your broken leg and cuts and bruises have healed but you have been unable to go back to work.  You tried going back to work but couldn’t focus on task and left after a couple of hours.  Your doctor says that you are dealing with depression that is a result of the concussion that you suffered in the accident. The fact that mental symptoms are continuing long after your other injuries have healed is an indication that you are dealing with an “organic mental disorder.”  In other words, you are experiencing mental problems caused by the blow to your head during the accident.  Your problems may diminish or get worse.  You may recover completely or the problems may be permanent.

You want and need to go back to work but most of the time you just sleep or sit and do very little. What about filing for disability?  Our White Plains Social Security lawyers know that disability claims based on mental problems following an accident, a fall, or some other traumatic event are among the most difficult to present.  There is usually no way to know for sure how long the problems are going to last.  Statistics indicate that it is fairly common for victims to have considerable recovery within the first 6 months.  Even if you do not fully recover, you may be able to do some work that exists in the economy.  The question is not whether or not you can return to your original job.  The SSA needs to determine whether or not you can do any type of work.


The SSA describes organic mental disorder as “psychological or behavioral abnormalities associated with a dysfunction of the brain.”  The impairment requires a history or examination that demonstrates the existence of a specific organic factor, etiologically related to (which is the cause of) the abnormal mental state and loss of previously acquired functional abilities.  In other words, there must be some evidence that an event (the blow to the head in the accident) caused change or injury to the brain.  The facts need to support a finding of an abnormal mental state that did not exist prior to the event and the loss of skills that existed prior to the event.

Organic mental disorders are included in the list of conditions or impairments that, if severe enough, create a presumption of disability.  The listing for organic mental disorders includes specific symptoms that must exist in order for the impairment to rise to the level of severity necessary to create the presumption.  These symptoms include such things as confusion or disorientation, memory loss, hallucinations, depression, changes in personality, mood swings and loss of IQ points.

The existence of these symptoms alone is not the determining factor.  The symptoms must cause disruptions in your daily life.  They must affect your performance at work as evidenced by inability to get along or cooperate with co-workers and inability to stay on task.  In addition, there needs to be evidence that these conditions exist and have existed or are likely to exist for a considerable period of time.

A key factor for this diagnosis is change.  There needs to be evidence that these issues did not exist prior to the accident.  This may require a review of your medical records from before as well as following the event.  Keeping careful records or developing complete records is critical to success.  A person who is suffering from a mental disorder may be unable to properly document or describe the problems that have developed.  The person may be unable to remember how long symptoms have existed or even what the symptoms are.  Doctor’s records need to correctly reflect progress or lack of progress as well as a clear indication that the doctor’s treatment plans have been followed.

The guidance of an experienced attorney or advocate can be the difference between success and failure.  A treating physician may be very skilled at diagnosing and providing care for the medical problems associated with the injury but the doctor will not have the experience necessary to understand what the Social Security Administration requires for a successful application for disability.


The issue in your case, as in all disability cases, is whether or not you have a medically determinable impairment or condition that is prohibiting you from engaging in substantial, gainful, activity.  You may qualify for disability even if your records do not establish that you meet the level of severity required for the presumption of disability to apply.  Everyone is different.  If you are not working and doctors verify that, for you, the impairment or condition is keeping you from working and you are not going to improve to the point that you can work, the SSA will look at what is called your residual functional capacity or RFC.  The issue is whether or not your impairment is prohibiting you from performing your past work or any other work that exists in the economy.  At this stage, consideration can be given to your age as well as your education and work history.  Since age can affect your ability to adapt to or perform new tasks the older you are and the more physically demanding the tasks required for your past work, the better the chances that you may be found disabled.


  1. Ask for help.
  2. Have someone help you keep a record of issues that you experience as a result of your condition. Do this even if you feel that you are capable of doing this yourself.
  3. Be a cry baby! Your doctor visits are not the time to be a hero or a tough guy or gal.  If you are having problems, make sure you mention all of them to your doctor.  If the doctor asks you how you are doing, don’t say “I am better” unless there is nothing at all bothering you.  Your answer to “how are you doing” should be a list of everything that is still different than it was before the event.  The doctor’s notes should reflect that you are still having problems with a, b, and c …. Not that you are “better.”
  4. Follow all of your doctor’s treatment orders. This includes taking all medication prescribed.  Let the doctor know if your medication is helping, making things worse, or having no effect.
  5. Get the help of an experienced attorney. The White Plains Social Security lawyers at The Herman Law Group understand concussions, head injuries, and Social Security disability.  They know that these cases are complicated and require the willingness to spend the time necessary to get the best result for you.  Don’t try to go it alone.

Call the Hermann Law Group at 914-286-3030 to schedule your free case evaluation today.