Migraines are not just painful. They can also cause dizziness, nausea, and even vision loss. The World Health Organization identified these types of headaches as the sixth most disabling illness in the world. They are also a common disability among veterans.
If you have migraines and suspect they are caused by your time in active-duty service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. The key to getting VA disability compensation is proving service connection. That means you must prove that (1) your migraines are caused by your time in service, (2) your migraines were worsened by your time in service, or (3) your migraines are caused by another service-connected injury or illness. This article explains what migraines are and how to get VA disability benefits for them.
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In this article about migraines
What are migraine headaches?
A migraine is a severe headache that can cause throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. Migraines can last for hours or days, and the pain can be so extreme that it interferes with daily activities.
Some people can experience a warning symptom known as an aura, which is a visual disturbance like flashes of light or blind spots. Auras can also include difficulty speaking or tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg.
There are several types of migraines. The most common are migraines with aura and migraines without aura.
Symptoms of migraines
Migraines can progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome.
The prodrome stage is essentially a warning sign for a migraine. The symptoms, which can start one or two days before the onset, might include:
- Neck stiffness
- Mood changes
- Food cravings
- Frequent yawning
- Fluid retention
- Increased urination
The aura stage might occur before or during a migraine. Each symptom begins gradually, builds over several minutes, and can last up to an hour. You may see various shapes or bright flashes of light or even experience vision loss. Auras can also include difficulty speaking, sensations of pins and needles in the arms or legs, and weakness or numbness in the face or on one side of the body.
During the attack stage of a migraine you might experience pulsing or throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea and vomiting, or sensitivity to sound, light, and sometimes sensitivity to smell and touch.
After a migraine attack, during what is called the postdrome stage, it is common to feel confused, extremely tired, and nonfunctional for up to a day. Some people feel relieved and elated after a migraine. Sudden head movements may still cause pain during this period.
Causes of migraines
Although migraines are not fully understood by the medical community, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role. There are many migraine triggers, including:
- Drinking alcohol and/or caffeine
- Sensory stimuli such as bright or flashing lights, loud sounds, strong smells, and others
- Changes in sleep patterns, including not enough or too much sleep
- Weather changes
- Intense physical activity
- Certain foods
- Certain medications such as oral contraceptives and vasodilators
- Food additives, like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hormonal changes in women such as fluctuations in estrogen
How migraines affect veterans
Veterans who were deployed are more likely than regular civilians to experience migraine headaches. Veterans with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can experience a high rate of headaches. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pain found a headache frequency of 63% among veterans exposed to multiple sources of trauma.
As a veteran living with frequent migraines, every aspect of your life is affected. Attacks can last for days, hindering your ability to work or spend time with family. Even sensitivity to light, sound, and noise can mean skipping out on social gatherings.
VA rating for migraines
The VA rates migraines using diagnostic code 8100 in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. The lowest rating is 0% and the highest rating is 50%.
The word “prostrating” is key in the rating of migraines. The term is not specifically defined in the code, but it has been interpreted as the level of incapacitation a person experiences during a migraine.
Below are specific descriptions for each rating. Keep in mind that the diagnostic code for migraines is successive, meaning to satisfy one rating, you must meet all of the criteria for the lower ratings below it. For example, to meet the 30% rating, you must meet the criteria for the 0% and 10% ratings.
|VA rating||Description||Monthly payment|
|0%||Less frequent migraine attacks||$0|
|10%||Prostrating attacks averaging one in two months over the last several months|
|30%||Prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over the last several months|
|50%||Very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks capable of producing severe economic inadaptability|
VA disability benefits attorney Cecilia Ton notes that at the 50% rating, the VA is considering the length of the migraine and the concept of “completely prostrating.” She said at this rating the VA is also looking for evidence that the condition impacts your ability to work.
“It’s important to note for veterans who are unemployed or retired, you do not need to submit actual proof that your work is impacted,” she said. “For example, you only need to show that your migraine headaches are capable of impairing your ability to work and would cause absences from work several times a month.”
If your headaches prevent you from working at all, you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).
If you are pursuing a claim for migraines, it’s also important to recognize that several other medical conditions might be linked to migraines, including stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, hearing problems, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. You could be eligible for additional benefits for these conditions if your migraines are service-connected.
How to get a VA disability rating for migraines
If you have never tried to receive VA disability benefits for migraines, you can start by filing a claim. If you would like assistance with the initial application process, you can contact Woods and Woods. We never charge for the initial application. We even have a step-by-step guide to make the application process easier.
If you have filed a claim that was denied, you can file an appeal within one year of the decision date. If you choose to hire Woods and Woods as your veteran disability benefits lawyers, our VA-certified disability benefits attorneys will communicate with the VA and gather all the evidence needed to win your migraine disability claim.
Attorney Ton said she once had a client who kept a daily log of his migraines.
“He wrote down the dates that he had them, how long they lasted, and the symptoms that they caused,” she said. “He submitted this daily log to the VA, and after considering his journal entries, he was ultimately granted a higher rating. That is an example of how lay evidence works.”
How Woods and Woods can help
If you have migraines that you believe are connected to your military service, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file an initial claim or to appeal a rating decision. We have lawyers that handle VA claims for all kinds of different conditions. You’ll only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The ratings for migraines are 0%, 10%, 30%, and 50%. According to the VA compensation rates, 0% is not eligible for compensation, a 10% rating will pay $152.64, 30% will pay $467.39, and 50% will pay $958.44.
When the VA decides if a veteran will get disability benefits for migraines, it considers how much a person is incapacitated by the episode. The VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities uses the word “prostrating” in its descriptions of the severity of migraine headaches.