What is a Migraine?
A migraine is a painful headache. One or more of the following symptoms accompany it:
- intense throbbing or pulsing in one area of the head,
- and/or extreme sensitivity to light or sound.
The attacks can last for hours or days. The National Headache Foundation estimates that more than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraines. Women suffer from migraines three times more often than men.
What causes Migraines?
The medical literature indicates several factors can trigger migraines including sleep problems, medications, stress, and depression. In addition to these factors, I’ve also seen disabled veterans with migraines that are due to spinal problems, traumatic brain injury, or eye injuries.
Many veterans complain of severe headaches; however, they fail to recognize that they may be suffering from migraines. Unfortunately, doctors often misdiagnose migraines as sinus headaches or tension headaches. Some doctors simply do not have the experience to properly diagnosis migraines.
Does VA recognize Migraines as a Disability?
VA recognizes migraines as a service connected disability, so long as the veteran can prove a connection with military service. In other words, if the veteran can prove that the migraines began in service it is service connected. Another way is a secondary service connection. If the migraine relates to other service-connected conditions, then she may obtain service-connected disability for this condition.
How does the VA rate migraines?
Migraines are rated by the VA based on the frequency and severity of the headaches. The lowest compensable rating for migraines is 10 percent. For a 10% rating, the veteran must experience “prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over the last several months.” Prostrating attacks mean the pain so bad that the veteran has to lay down.
The highest schedular rating for migraines is 50%. For a 50% rating, a veteran must experience “very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.” Based on the rating schedule, if the migraines are not prostrating, the veteran will only receive a 0% rating.
What evidence must a veteran show to VA for a proper migraine rating?
For a veteran to make VA properly rate her for migraines, she must show the headaches are actually migraines. The best evidence is medical records showing a qualified medical person diagnosing migraines. For example, a diagnosis from a neurologist, migraine specialist, ophthalmologist, optometrist, or even a primary care physician. The nuance, however, for an accurate rating, the veteran must have more than just a diagnosis. The veteran must show evidence of the severity and frequency of the migraines. Helpful evidence would be medical records, headache diaries kept by the veteran, statements from loved ones, employment records showing absenteeism.
How do I get the highest rating?
As stated above, the highest schedular rating for migraines is 50%. However, this not the highest for a veteran who feels her migraines make her unemployable. Veterans who are unable to work due to migraines may be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU). IU requires specific evidence from a veteran to qualify for IU benefits. Even though VA doesn’t provide a 100% schedular rating for migraines, a veteran could still get 100% through IU.
If you believe your migraines are related to service or a service-connected condition, you should file a VA claim. You will need proper medical evidence. You should start keeping track of the severity and frequency of the headaches. A qualified representative can assist you with developing the evidence you will need to properly present your claim in the best light.