In the past, several of our blogs have discussed VA Benefits and Migraines. Those blogs are a great starting point if you’re looking for general information regarding migraines and the VA. Unfortunately, in looking at case after case, it is clear to me that the VA continues to get this issue wrong, day in and day out.
As with any disability for which a veteran is seeking service-connection, the main issues are (1) is the disability service-connected in the first place, and (2) if the disability is service-connected, what is the proper rating?
Just this month, I worked on a case for a veteran who had been fighting the VA for years in order to get her migraines service-connected. The good news is that the VA finally agreed that the migraines were connected to service. The bad news is that the VA only assigned a 10% rating for her migraines. So, although we have achieved an initial victory, we are now back on the VA hamster-wheel once again, continuing on with the fight to get the proper rating for the migraines.
Of course, the Rating Decision granting service-connection for her migraines states that the VA is considering the grant to be a “full grant” of the issues on appeal. However, the truth of the matter is that the 10% rating is far from a “full grant” of the issues on appeal. Don’t let this type of language fool you.
Whenever a veteran suffers from migraines that are prostrating (i.e. the veteran has to lay down to make the migraine go away), and occurring on average of once a month over the last several months, the VA’s rating schedule of disabilities states that the veteran is entitled to at least a 30% rating. If the migraines are “very frequent, completely prostrating, and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability,” then the veteran is entitled to at least a 50% rating. Taking it a step further, if the migraines prevent the veteran from working at a gainful occupation, then the veteran should be entitled to individual unemployability benefits.
I am often perplexed at how often the VA seems to ignore its own rating schedules and regulations. But, time and time again, it does.
I have found that the key in migraines cases is for veterans to make sure that the record is thoroughly developed. In this regard, here are a few helpful tips:
- Keep a diary of the migraine symptoms- e.g. how often do they occur, are they prostrating, do they result in absenteeism from work, etc.
- Actively pursue regular treatment for the migraines, so there will be documentation in the record as to the severity- e.g. ask your doctors to document the frequency/severity/treatment.
- Explore obtaining any statements you may need to help prove your case- e.g. medical opinions from your treating physicians or independent physicians, lay statements from those with knowledge of your condition, opinions from vocational experts, etc.
The take away is that veterans with chronic and disabling migraines should not continue to suffer in silence. If your migraines are the result of your military service (or caused by another service-connected condition), you deserve service-connection, and if the migraines are chronic and severe, a mere zero percent or 10% rating is an injustice. Do not let the VA shortchange you without fighting for all of your benefits.