More than just a simple headache, migraines can be devastatingly painful for veterans who suffer from this condition. Sometimes, migraines can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Veterans who experience migraines often times will have painful attacks that are completely disabling. This can affect a veteran’s ability to maintain employment. When applying for disability compensation, it is important to understand how the VA rates migraine headaches and where a veteran may place in their criteria.
VA Rating System for Migraine Headaches
The VA’s rating system is based on the severity of a veteran’s disability. The rating system for migraines is as follows:
- 50 percent: a veteran must have very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability. This is the highest disability rating available for migraines.
- 30 percent: characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average of once per month over the last several month
- 10 percent: characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in two months over the last several months
- 0 percent: a veteran who receives less frequent attacks or non prostrating attacks
The VA assigns one of the four disability ratings to a veteran’s migraine headaches based on the frequency and the severity of the headaches. It is important to understand that a “prostrating” migraine headache is experienced when the severity of the migraines forces the veteran to have to lie down for extended periods of time, during the migraine attack.
Proving the Disability
More often than not, the hardest part of applying for disability compensation for migraine headaches is proving that they actually exist. Much like a mental health disability, migraine headaches are not visible like other physical disabilities. When it comes to the VA, becoming service connected for this condition requires a connection to the veteran’s time in service. Whether there was an event in service that initially caused the veteran to have migraines and/or whether the migraines are aggravated by another service connected condition, that is the type of evidence needed to prove the nexus between a veteran’s time in service and the migraine disability.
To make sure that a veteran’s migraine headaches are rated properly, it is important that substantial documentation showing a diagnosis of the headache is present. It is also important that a veteran’s medical evidence shows the severity and frequency of the migraine attacks. It is preferred that medical professionals such as a neurologist, migraine specialist, ophthalmologist, optometrist, or possibly a primary care physician diagnose this condition. This can help the credibility of the claim.
Migraines Interfering with a Veteran’s Ability to Work
Oftentimes, the VA will not see migraines as a debilitating condition. They do not see that this condition can actually stop a veteran from having gainful employment. As mentioned earlier, the 50 percent disability rating is the highest schedular rating that can be assigned to migraine headaches. But, if a veteran truly feels that their migraines keep them from being able to perform regular and gainful employment, there is an option of applying for Individual Unemployability benefits (IU). IU is a form of a disability compensation program through the VA that will award payment at the 100 percent compensation rate to a veteran, even if the service connected disability itself is not rated at 100 percent on a schedular basis. For more information on IU benefits, please click this link.
If a veteran does not meet the requirement for IU benefits just yet, but, his or her migraine disability seems to be more disabling than the 50 percent level, then there is also another process that the veteran could request, so that his or her disability could be considered for an “extraschedular” rating, above the 50 percent maximum. . A great example of this type of case is one where the veteran’s disability demonstrates unusual or exceptional circumstances that interfere with a veteran’s earning ability. If the veteran’s migraines requires frequent hospital visits, and the veteran cannot keep employment in a consistent manner, an extraschedular review may be a consideration that should be taken into account.