VA Disability Compensation for Migraines

Veterans suffering from migraine headaches might not know if they can file a claim for VA disability benefits. Often, the Veteran only starts suffering from migraines after service. Most people think Veterans can only file claims for conditions that started in service, but that’s not always the case. Veterans can also file benefits that were caused by military service, which gives migraine sufferers multiple ways to file a claim for benefits.

Service Connecting Migraines

According to the American Migraine Foundation, stress is the number one trigger of migraines. That means if a Veteran suffers from PTSD due to their time in service service, their migraines could be caused or aggravated by their mental health condition. That connection provides an avenue to service-connect (and therefore be compensated for) migraines, even if they began long after separating from the military. This same principle can be applied to other common triggers for migraines: lack of sleep, hormonal changes, alcohol, and some medications. If the cause or aggravating factor of the migraines comes from a service-connected condition, the Veteran has a path to service connection.

Of course, getting service-connected is only step one. The VA frequently provides a low rating for migraines initially, sometimes finding that the Veteran does not suffer from compensable symptoms at all and providing a zero percent rating. Assuming the Veteran disagrees with the assigned percentage, they must appeal for an increased evaluation.

Impairment Ratings for Migraines

The impairment ratings for migraines can be found at 38 C.F.R § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8100. Under the Diagnostic Code, the VA can assign the following ratings for migraines:

  • 10% for evidence of characteristic prostrating attacks due to migraines that average one migraine every two months, lasting over several months.
  • 30% for characteristic prostrating attacks occurring an average of once a month for the past several months.
  • 50% for very frequent, completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.

The VA must look at the Veteran’s symptoms, compare them to the options under the Diagnostic Code, and assign the appropriate rating. However, since migraine symptoms are entirely subjective (i.e., experienced only by the migraine sufferer), it can be difficult to convince the VA to apply all the relevant symptoms. On top of that, some of the language in the Diagnostic Code is unclear or up to interpretation. What exactly is a “prostrating attack” and what constitutes “severe economic inadaptability” under a 50 percent rating?

Understanding Diagnostic Code Language

For the purposes of rating migraines, a prostrating attack is typically considered to be a severe migraine for which the only solution is to lie down in the dark or otherwise rest. Essentially, a prostrating migraine would be one which incapacitates the Veteran so that they must leave work or cease any other activity until the migraine passes. It might come with nausea, visual auras, severe pain, or light sensitivity.

Severe economic inadaptability is not as clearly defined, which can be a good thing for Veterans. The argument could be made that missing a few days of work per month, not being promoted, or having to work only certain hours due to migraines can be severe economic inadaptability because they cause the migraine-suffering Veteran from working normally. The symptoms cause the Veteran to miss out on potential monetary compensations. Essentially, if they feel migraines cause problems with work, a Veteran should make the argument that their symptoms constitute severe economic inadaptability.

VA Appeals Lawyers

At Berry Law, our team is committed to helping Veterans in their fight for disability compensation. If you have been denied disability benefits for migraines or received a lower than expected rating, please contact our dedicated VA appeals lawyers today to schedule a free case evaluation.