February 22, 2020

How to Use a Listing Argument to Win Your TBI Disability Claim

The fastest way to win a traumatic brain injury disability case involves documenting to Social Security that you meet or equal listing 11.18.

Social Security’s Blue Book of Listings includes detailed descriptions of a variety of serious medical problems. If you meet or equal a listing, Social Security will approve you because as a matter of law a listing level impairment meets SSA’s definition of disability.

If you meet a listing, you do not have to present extensive evidence about your work capacity limitations – SSA will assume that you have significant work limitations because your medical condition is so serious.

In the case of a traumatic brain injury, Social Security will find you disabled if you meet Listing 11.18 where your condition results in:

A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities, persisting for at least 3 consecutive months after the injury.


B. Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following areas of mental functioning, persisting for at least 3 consecutive months after the injury:

  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
  2. Interacting with others; or
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
  4. Adapting or managing oneself

As you can see, the level of impairment required by the listing is high – it describes a person who has a very difficult time functioning at all.

You can use this listing to win by asking your doctor to write a narrative report describing your treatment and current functioning using the language of this listing.

In our law office, we create checklists that include the language of the listing along with several other questions about your functioning and reliability to make our case stronger.

Win by Equaling a Listing

You can also win using the listings if you don’t exactly meet the language of the listing but your impairment is just as serious as what is contained in the listing. For example, listing 11.18 does not specifically address anger control, emotional stability or suicidal thoughts. A closed head injury patient could have extreme limitations in work functioning if that person experienced frequent crying spells or outbursts of anger. A treating neurologist could link these symptoms to a closed head injury and conclude that these symptoms are equivalent to, for example, concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace.

Other Listings May Apply

Your closed head injury might also result in meeting a listing elsewhere in the Blue Book. For example, your brain injury might result in an uncontrolled seizure disorder such that Listing 11.02 or 12.07. Symptoms following a serious head injury can impact many different body systems so it would be wise to look beyond Listing 11.00.

Because any significant closed head injury will undoubtedly result in serious symptoms you should always try to make a listing argument when completing SSA’s forms. Should your case go to hearing, your lawyer should use the listings as a starting point when arguing for disability, while also using other theories of disability as well.

If you or a loved one are recovering from a closed head injury and you want to understand your Social Security disability options, please use the contact form on this page to request a case evaluation.