Migraines are a common condition among former military service members. Migraines often occur secondary to other injuries and illnesses like traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and more. If you’re a veteran experiencing migraines, you may be eligible for a higher rating and increased disability benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. This guide will help you make a VA disability claim for migraine headaches.
What Is a Migraine?
Migraines are not like other headaches, just ask someone who has had one. Unlike a typical headache, migraines can cause impairment in everyday life. A migraine can be completely debilitating and so intense that sufferers will do almost anything to relieve the pain.
The symptoms of migraines can vary greatly. Migraines typically occur in several phases, up to four in many people, and can last from hours to days. Migraines can qualify as chronic pain. They can cause pain so severe that it can render a person completely incapacitated. Some people have warning signs prior to the onset of a migraine or headache disorder.
- Prodome: The first phase can start several days before the actual headache starts. These symptoms include mood changes; constipation; food cravings; frequent yawning; increased thirst and urination; and/or neck stiffness.
- Aura: The second phase of the migraine can include; flashes of light; bind spots or other visual disturbances; tingling of one side of the face, arm, or leg; hearing music or noises; touching sensations such as sensory, motor, or verbal disturbances; weakness of muscles or feeling as if someone is touching you; and/or a specific type of headache that precedes the actual migraine.
- Migraine: The third phase is the actual migraine itself and has specific symptoms that other headaches do not have. A migraine can last upwards of 72 hours and can have such symptoms as; pain on only one side of their head; throbbing or pulsing pain; nausea and/or vomiting; sensitivity to light, sound, smells; blurred vision; and/or lightheadedness or fainting spells.
- Post-drome: The fourth phase is the last phase of a migraine and the sufferer can experience such symptoms as; feeling drained and washed out or elated; confusion; moodiness; dizziness and/or continued sensitivity to light and/or sound.
Remember that seeking a medical opinion is the best way to obtain treatment for your migraine or post-traumatic headache. Your doctor can work with you to manage your symptoms or even find long-term relief. This medical visit will also be key in your claim for veterans benefits.
Treatment of Migraines
Some new treatments have been making the scene lately with positive results. Most medications are hit or miss; some have to be taken within a limited time frame for effectiveness, others have side effects that are often as bad as the migraines, and some have limits on how much can be taken in a week/month so that sufferers are discouraged from using them for fear of running out. New treatments such as Botox injections and Cefaly treatments can be costly if you are not already service connected and your VA Clinic does not provide these treatments. Regardless of whether a Veteran has a claim for disability or not, treatment for migraines is available and should be taken advantage of if possible. Migraines are debilitating and can decrease the quality of life tremendously so do whatever possible to get treatment.
Service Connection of Migraines
Migraines are one of the more prevalent claimed disabilities among Veterans. It is currently ranked 8th in most prevalent disabilities in new compensation claims. Studies suggest that approximately 36% of those returning from Iraq experience migraine-type headaches. Another study showed that of those suffering from migraine-type symptoms, about 22% showed symptoms of anxiety, 50% showed symptoms of depression, and almost 40% had symptoms of PTSD. The exact causes of migraines remain unknown, but there are links.
There are several injuries that can occur in active duty that might be linked to migraine headaches. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) such as exposure to explosives, extremely loud noises, and actual head injuries are leading factors in migraines. However, there are now links to exposures to chemicals such as burn pits and chemical solvents. There may also be secondary comorbidities such as neck, eye, or back injuries, fibromyalgia, and mental health issues. There can also be other secondary issues from the migraines such as sleep disorders, sleep apnea, chronic mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Detailed information on how migraines are rated can be found here.
Secondary Conditions to Migraines
A little-known aspect we see often is migraines leading to secondary issues such as mental health conditions like PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and others. The inverse is also seen on occasion with PTSD leading to severe migraines. Some studies also show that both migraine and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be up to 3 times more common in women than in men. In this video, we discuss a common link we see between migraines and mental health issues among military service members.
Filing a VA Claim for Migraines
A veteran first must have a diagnosis of migraines in order to file for VA disability compensation. Second, it must be determined if the migraines are the primary disability (caused by an in-service injury or event) or if they are secondary to another injury or illness. If they are a primary disability, you can claim them alone; if they are a secondary disability then you must claim the primary medical condition or injury, as well as the migraines (if you are not already service-connected for the primary disability).
If the migraine is primary, there are several ways to show proof of migraines being service-connected in order to file a claim. If a Veteran can show that they were treated for migraines in service with service medical records or can show an injury or illness in service that caused migraines with a nexus statement from a physician then there is the likelihood they can get service connection for their migraines. Proving service connections without medical evidence is more difficult, but it is possible. Having proof of exposure to certain environmental issues such as burn pits, extremely loud noises, or being in close range of explosives can provide nexus or link the migraine to military service. A medical nexus from your healthcare provider can be a key component in your veterans disability claim.
If the migraine is secondary to another condition, the Veteran will need the diagnosis, treatment records, and the nexus showing that the primary disability caused or probably caused (50% or greater likelihood) the migraines. More in-depth information about secondary service-connection can be found here.
If a migraines secondary to another condition, the Veteran will need the diagnosis, treatment records, and the nexus showing that the primary disability caused or probably caused (50% or greater likelihood) the migraines. More in-depth information about secondary service connection can be found here.
VA Disability Ratings for Migraine Headaches
The VA’s rating schedule for migraines awards a maximum 50% rating for veterans. Compensation and Pension examiners use the term “prostrating attacks” when assessing the severity of a veteran’s migraines. A prostrating attack means that the migraine causes significant pain or distress.
The VA uses 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8100, to rate migraines. The rating schedule lists the rating criteria as follows:
- 0% – With less frequent attacks
- 10% – With characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over the last several months
- 30% – With characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over the last several months
- 50% – With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability
You can read more about how the VA rates migraines and the C&P exam questionnaire in here.
Have Questions About Your VA Claim or VA disability benefits?
If the VA has denied your disability claim for compensation, or you received a lower rating than expected, contact the team at Hill & Ponton today. Our law firm specializes in veterans law. We help veterans and their family members obtain the benefits that they’re entitled to through legal advice and representation. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your VA claim.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?