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Can I Receive VA Disability Benefits for Headaches?
Headaches and VA Disability Benefits
Nearly every person in the world can relate to the pain that is associated with a headache. The foggy thought process, the pulsing pain, and the sensitivity to light or sound. While headaches are common in both the civilian and military world, the cause of headaches in some individuals could be directly related to military service. With this in mind, many Veterans wonder whether or not they can receive VA compensation for headaches.
We often hear from clients who ask, “Can I receive VA disability for headaches?” The short answer is yes, you may be able to receive VA benefits for headaches. However, it is not as simple as filing a claim with the VA reporting headaches and receiving compensation. You must first prove that it is part of a currently diagnosed condition and that it is connected to your time in service. If you can prove these elements when filing your claim, you should be able to receive monthly disability compensation for headaches.
VA Rating for Headaches
Almost everyone gets a headache from time to time, but if they happen often enough, they can prevent you from keeping a job or enjoying your leisure time. Migraine headaches can be completely immobilizing, as the only reliable relief may be lying down in a darkened room. Unfortunately, many Veterans are not aware that they may receive VA disability benefits for headaches if they can get the condition service connected– linking it to something that happened during the Veterans time in the military.
Whether headaches are a symptom that stems from a mental health condition (like PTSD), or a product of sinus problems that developed during service, Veterans are entitled to file for service connection for headaches.
If the headaches are linked to service, the Veteran will receive a rating percentage associated with the overall impact on their livelihood.
The VA currently rates headaches under diagnostic code 8100. They rate headaches based on how incapacitating the condition is and how frequently the headaches occur. Headaches can be defined as:
Prostrating – Causing extreme exhaustion, powerlessness, debilitation, or incapacitation with substantial inability to engage in everyday activities.
Completely Prostrating – Causing extreme exhaustion, powerlessness, debilitation, or incapacitation with essentially total inability to engage in everyday activities.
Looking at the terms above, the only difference is a completely prostrating headache makes a person totally incapacitated, while a prostrating headache is only substantially incapacitating. However, the VA can also define your headaches as causing:
Severe Economic Inadaptability – Denotes a degree of substantial work impairment.
The VA also takes into account how often these headaches occur. If you have headaches more frequently, you are entitled to a higher rating. The VA will define your headaches as:
Less Frequent (0% Rating) – Duration of prostrating attacks are more than two months apart on average.
Very Frequent (50% Rating) – Duration of prostrating attacks less than one month apart on average.
There are multiple levels of disability ratings for headaches, with 50% being the highest rating that a Veteran can receive for headaches alone. This level of rating is reserved for service-connected headaches that cause attacks that produce physical weakness, require long periods of lying down, and occur at least two times per month.
Demonstrating the Effects of the Headache to the VA
When your disability claim is looked over by a VA ratings specialist, existing evidence that your migraine is “prostrating” (causing both weakness and the need to lie down) will jump off the page. To make sure that your migraine will be rated accurately, you need to provide documentation showing that your headache qualifies as a migraine.
You should obtain a diagnosis from a medical specialist and provide records and statements from family and friends about instances when your headaches disrupted your life. These “statements,” often referred to as buddy statements or buddy letters, can be the difference between the VA denying your claim and granting you disability compensation.
When you visit your doctor, it is important to tell them exactly how your headaches make you feel. Are you unable to remain productive when you have one? Do they cause weakness? Are you often reduced to lying down for hours or days because your head won’t stop hurting? The more descriptive you can be, the more likely it is that your medical statements will convince the VA to rate you higher.
How to Get Your Headaches Service Connected
To receive service connection for headaches, like all conditions, you will need to prove three elements:
- You have a current medical diagnosis for your headache
- An in-service event or condition that caused the disability
- A medical nexus linking the in-service event to your current diagnosis
If a Veteran can prove all three of the elements listed above, they should receive a VA disability for headaches
Links to Other Issues
If you have headaches that cause other problems, such as complete unemployability, you may be entitled to additional benefits. For example, if your headaches make it impossible to work, you could file for individual unemployability (TDIU) and receive disability benefits as if you were rated at 100%.
Similarly, your headaches may be secondary to another ailment like Traumatic Brain Injury or a Mental Health impairment. When this is the case, you can file for disability benefits for headaches on a secondary basis. This means you can get secondary service connection for headaches if it is caused by another service connected condition.
It is important to work with your doctor and your VA claim representative to discuss all the issues you are dealing with.
Berry Law – America’s Veterans Law Firm
If you have suffered from intense headaches once you returned from service, or even if they started decades after you took off the uniform, you may qualify for disability benefits.
The VA disability attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to serving fellow Veterans in their fight for disability benefits. With attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, Berry Law is well-equipped to help you get all the disability compensation you deserve. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.