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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Care Services; Committee on the Review of the Department of Veterans Affairs Examinations for Traumatic Brain Injury. Evaluation of the Disability Determination Process for Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2019 Apr 10.

Cover of Evaluation of the Disability Determination Process for Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans

Evaluation of the Disability Determination Process for Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans.

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E§ 4.124a Schedule of Ratings—Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders1

With the exceptions noted, disability from the following diseases and their residuals may be rated from 10 percent to 100 percent in proportion to the impairment of motor, sensory, or mental function. Consider especially psychotic manifestations, complete or partial loss of use of one or more extremities, speech disturbances, impairment of vision, disturbances of gait, tremors, visceral manifestations, etc., referring to the appropriate bodily system of the schedule. With partial loss of use of one or more extremities from neurological lesions, rate by comparison with the mild, moderate, severe, or complete paralysis of peripheral nerves.

Note: It is required for the minimum ratings for residuals under diagnostic codes 8000–8025 that there be ascertainable residuals. Determinations as to the presence of residuals not capable of objective verification, i.e., headaches, dizziness, fatigability, must be approached on the basis of the diagnosis recorded; subjective residuals will be accepted when consistent with the disease and not more likely attributable to other disease or no disease. It is of exceptional importance that when ratings in excess of the prescribed minimum ratings are assigned, the diagnostic codes utilized as bases of evaluation be cited, in addition to the codes identifying the diagnoses.

8045 Residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

There are three main areas of dysfunction that may result from TBI and have profound effects on functioning: cognitive (which is common in varying degrees after TBI), emotional/behavioral, and physical. Each of these areas of dysfunction may require evaluation.

Cognitive impairment is defined as decreased memory, concentration, attention, and executive functions of the brain. Executive functions are goal setting, speed of information processing, planning, organizing, prioritizing, self-monitoring, problem solving, judgment, decision making, spontaneity, and flexibility in changing actions when they are not productive. Not all of these brain functions may be affected in a given individual with cognitive impairment, and some functions may be affected more severely than others. In a given individual, symptoms may fluctuate in severity from day to day. Evaluate cognitive impairment under the table titled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified.”

Subjective symptoms may be the only residual of TBI or may be associated with cognitive impairment or other areas of dysfunction. Evaluate subjective symptoms that are residuals of TBI, whether or not they are part of cognitive impairment, under the subjective symptoms facet in the table titled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified.” However, separately evaluate any residual with a distinct diagnosis that may be evaluated under another diagnostic code, such as migraine headache or Meniere's disease, even if that diagnosis is based on subjective symptoms, rather than under the “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified” table.

Evaluate emotional/behavioral dysfunction under § 4.130 (Schedule of ratings—mental disorders) when there is a diagnosis of a mental disorder. When there is no diagnosis of a mental disorder, evaluate emotional/behavioral symptoms under the criteria in the table titled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified.”

Evaluate physical (including neurological) dysfunction based on the following list, under an appropriate diagnostic code: motor and sensory dysfunction, including pain, of the extremities and face; visual impairment; hearing loss and tinnitus; loss of sense of smell and taste; seizures; gait, coordination, and balance problems; speech and other communication difficulties, including aphasia and related disorders, and dysarthria; neurogenic bladder; neurogenic bowel; cranial nerve dysfunctions; autonomic nerve dysfunctions; and endocrine dysfunctions.

The preceding list of types of physical dysfunction does not encompass all possible residuals of TBI. For residuals not listed here that are reported on an examination, evaluate under the most appropriate diagnostic code. Evaluate each condition separately, as long as the same signs and symptoms are not used to support more than one evaluation, and combine under § 4.25 the evaluations for each separately rated condition. The evaluation assigned based on the “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified” table will be considered the evaluation for a single condition for purposes of combining with other disability evaluations.

Consider the need for special monthly compensation for such problems as loss of use of an extremity, certain sensory impairments, erectile dysfunction, the need for aid and attendance (including for protection from hazards or dangers incident to the daily environment due to cognitive impairment), being housebound, etc.

Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Subjective Symptoms

The table titled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified” contains 10 important facets of TBI related to cognitive impairment and subjective symptoms. It provides criteria for levels of impairment for each facet, as appropriate, ranging from 0 to 3, and a fifth level, the highest level of impairment, labeled “total.” However, not every facet has every level of severity. The Consciousness facet, for example, does not provide for an impairment level other than “total,” since any level of impaired consciousness would be totally disabling. Assign a 100 percent evaluation if “total” is the level of evaluation for one or more facets. If no facet is evaluated as “total,” assign the overall percentage evaluation based on the level of the highest facet as follows: 0 = 0 percent; 1 = 10 percent; 2 = 40 percent; and 3 = 70 percent. For example, assign a 70 percent evaluation if 3 is the highest level of evaluation for any facet.

Note (1): There may be an overlap of manifestations of conditions evaluated under the table titled “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified” with manifestations of a comorbid mental or neurologic or other physical disorder that can be separately evaluated under another diagnostic code. In such cases, do not assign more than one evaluation based on the same manifestations. If the manifestations of two or more conditions cannot be clearly separated, assign a single evaluation under whichever set of diagnostic criteria allows the better assessment of overall impaired functioning due to both conditions. However, if the manifestations are clearly separable, assign a separate evaluation for each condition.

Note (2): Symptoms listed as examples at certain evaluation levels in the table are only examples and are not symptoms that must be present in order to assign a particular evaluation.

Note (3): “Instrumental activities of daily living” refers to activities other than self-care that are needed for independent living, such as meal preparation, doing housework and other chores, shopping, traveling, doing laundry, being responsible for one's own medications, and using a telephone. These activities are distinguished from “Activities of daily living,” which refers to basic self-care and includes bathing or showering, dressing, eating, getting in or out of bed or a chair, and using the toilet.

Note (4): The terms “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe” TBI, which may appear in medical records, refer to a classification of TBI made at, or close to, the time of injury rather than to the current level of functioning. This classification does not affect the rating assigned under diagnostic code 8045.

Note (5): A veteran whose residuals of TBI are rated under a version of § 4.124a, diagnostic code 8045, in effect before October 23, 2008, may request review under diagnostic code 8045, irrespective of whether his or her disability has worsened since the last review. VA will review that veteran's disability rating to determine whether the veteran may be entitled to a higher disability rating under diagnostic code 8045. A request for review pursuant to this note will be treated as a claim for an increased rating for purposes of determining the effective date of an increased rating awarded as a result of such review; however, in no case will the award be effective before October 23, 2008. For the purposes of determining the effective date of an increased rating awarded as a result of such review, VA will apply 38 CFR 3.114, if applicable.

TABLE E-1Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified

Facets of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise ClassifiedLevel of ImpairmentCriteria
Memory, attention, concentration, executive functions0No complaints of impairment of memory, attention, concentration, or executive functions.
1A complaint of mild loss of memory (such as having difficult following a conversation, recalling recent conversations, remembering names of new acquaintances, or finding words, or often misplacing items), attention, concentration, or executive functions, but without objective evidence on testing.
2Objective evidence on testing of mild impairment of memory, attention, concentration, or executive functions resulting in mild functional impairment.
3Objective evidence on testing of moderate impairment of memory, attention, concentration, or executive functions resulting in moderate functional impairment.
TotalObjective evidence on testing of severe impairment of memory, attention, concentration, or executive functions resulting in severe functional impairment.
Judgment0Normal.
1Mildly impaired judgment. For complex or unfamiliar decisions, occasionally unable to identify, understand, and weigh the alternatives, understand the consequences of choices, and make a reasonable decision.
2Moderately impaired judgment. For complex or unfamiliar decisions, usually unable to identify, understand, and weigh the alternatives, understand the consequences of choices, and make a reasonable decision, although has little difficulty with simple decisions.
3Moderately impaired judgment. For complex or unfamiliar decisions, usually unable to identify, understand, and weigh the alternatives, understand the consequences of choices, and make a reasonable decision, although has little difficulty with simple decisions.
TotalSeverely impaired judgment. For even routine and familiar decisions, usually unable to identify, understand, and weigh the alternatives, understand the consequences of choices, and make a reasonable decision. For example, unable to determine appropriate clothing for current weather conditions or judge when to avoid dangerous situations or activities.
Social interaction0Social interaction is routinely appropriate.
1Social interaction is occasionally inappropriate.
2Social interaction is frequently inappropriate.
3Social interaction is inappropriate most or all of the time.
Orientation0Always oriented to person, time, place, and situation.
1Occasionally disoriented to one of the four aspects (person, time, place, situation) of orientation.
2Occasionally disoriented to two of the four aspects (person, time, place, situation) of orientation or often disoriented to one aspect of orientation.
3Often disoriented to two or more of the four aspects (person, time, place, situation) of orientation.
TotalConsistently disoriented to two or more of the four aspects (person, time, place, situation) of orientation.
Motor activity (with intact motor and sensory system)0Motor activity normal.
1Motor activity normal most of the time, but mildly slowed at times due to apraxia (inability to perform previously learned motor activities, despite normal motor function).
2Motor activity mildly decreased or with moderate slowing due to apraxia.
3Motor activity moderately decreased due to apraxia.
TotalMotor activity severely decreased due to apraxia.
Visual spatial orientation0Normal.
1Mildly impaired. Occasionally gets lost in unfamiliar surroundings, has difficulty reading maps or following directions. Is able to use assistive devices such as GPS (global positioning system).
2Moderately impaired. Usually gets lost in unfamiliar surroundings, has difficulty reading maps, following directions, and judging distance. Has difficulty using assistive devices such as GPS (global positioning system).
3Moderately severely impaired. Gets lost even in familiar surroundings, unable to use assistive devices such as GPS (global positioning system).
TotalSeverely impaired. May be unable to touch or name own body parts when asked by the examiner, identify the relative position in space of two different objects, or find the way from one room to another in a familiar environment.
Subjective symptoms0Subjective symptoms that do not interfere with work; instrumental activities of daily living; or work, family, or other close relationships. Examples are: mild or occasional headaches, mild anxiety.
1Three or more subjective symptoms that mildly interfere with work; instrumental activities of daily living; or work, family, or other close relationships. Examples of findings that might be seen at this level of impairment are: intermittent dizziness, daily mild to moderate headaches, tinnitus, frequent insomnia, hypersensitivity to sound, hypersensitivity to light.
2Three or more subjective symptoms that moderately interfere with work; instrumental activities of daily living; or work, family, or other close relationships. Examples of findings that might be seen at this level of impairment are: marked fatigability, blurred or double vision, headaches requiring rest periods during most days.
Neurobehavioral effects0One or more neurobehavioral effects that do not interfere with workplace interaction or social interaction. Examples of neurobehavioral effects are: irritability, impulsivity, unpredictability, lack of motivation, verbal aggression, physical aggression, belligerence, apathy, lack of empathy, moodiness, lack of cooperation, inflexibility, and impaired awareness of disability. Any of these effects may range from slight to severe, although verbal and physical aggression are likely to have a more serious impact on workplace interaction and social interaction than some of the other effects.
1One or more neurobehavioral effects that occasionally interfere with workplace interaction, social interaction, or both but do not preclude them.
2One or more neurobehavioral effects that frequently interfere with workplace interaction, social interaction, or both but do not preclude them.
3One or more neurobehavioral effects that interfere with or preclude workplace interaction, social interaction, or both on most days or that occasionally require supervision for safety of self or others.
Communication0Able to communicate by spoken and written language (expressive communication), and to comprehend spoken and written language.
1Comprehension or expression, or both, of either spoken language or written language is only occasionally impaired. Can communicate complex ideas.
2Inability to communicate either by spoken language, written language, or both, more than occasionally but less than half of the time, or to comprehend spoken language, written language, or both, more than occasionally but less than half of the time. Can generally communicate complex ideas.
3Inability to communicate either by spoken language, written language, or both, at least half of the time but not all of the time, or to comprehend spoken language, written language, or both, at least half of the time but not all of the time. May rely on gestures or other alternative modes of communication. Able to communicate basic needs.
TotalComplete inability to communicate either by spoken language, written language, or both, or to comprehend spoken language, written language, or both. Unable to communicate basic needs.
ConsciousnessTotalPersistently altered state of consciousness, such as vegetative state minimally responsive state, coma.

Footnotes

1

Published by the Department of Veterans Affairs. See https://www​.benefits​.va.gov/warms/bookc.asp (accessed December 28, 2018).

Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK542604

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