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 VA disability claim for veterans benefits. 

It can often be a struggle to connect a medical condition that began in earnest after the time of military service with an event or condition that happened during the military service time. But as long as the connection can be made, it is possible to get the kind of disability compensation that is very important for Veterans who are struggling on a daily basis. Migraines and severe headaches can be very debilitating and difficult to manage for many people and often lead to problems at work and in normal life function. To help with these problems, it’s essential to understand what migraines are, how they function, and how servicemembers can get the support they need through their disabilities. 

What are Migraines?

Migraines are defined as recurring type of headache that cause varying amounts and degrees of pain, and can range from being moderate to severe in pain levels. There is often a throbbing sensation that occurs, as well as a much higher sensitivity to light and sound. All of this leads to an overall sense of disorientation and discomfort, and at higher levels of pain, migraines can be almost entirely debilitating. These effects can cause the victim of the tension headaches to be nauseous and overly weak. 

There are many triggers that are likely to cause migraines. These include stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, medicines, improper levels of sleep, dehydration, and lack of food. The body responds to these triggers in ways that make it difficult to function properly and can often make it so the person has to entirely remove themselves from the current situation until the migraine passes. This can be very difficult and frustrating, especially if it happens in the workplace. This is not conducive to a good working experience and can often diminish the quality of work that is done. 

The reasons that veteran’s headaches exist are still largely unknown. It is known that women are up to three times more likely to get a migraine than men. It has been shown that migraines are often genetic, carrying on through family genetics. Most people who are more prone to migraines are related to others who are equally are not more likely to suffer from chronic migraines. Another commonly observed fact is that migraines are especially common within people who suffer from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, sleep disorders, and other mental problems. It is very possible that many Veterans develop these kinds of disorders during their time in the military. This can lead to migraines and many other problems. 

Service Connecting Migraines

According to the American Migraine Foundation, stress is the number one trigger of migraines. That means if a Veteran has PTSD due to their time in active duty, 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.

A secondary service connection is a somewhat complicated and confusing thing for many Veterans. It can be difficult to identify the root cause of many different types of disability. But when there is a connection that can be made from the health condition to the event or condition that occured during military service, that new condition can be covered by disability compensation. The connection has to be proven by a medical professional to be “at least as likely as not” to have come from the root cause that occurred in the line of duty. Once that qualification has been confirmed, there can be a lot of benefits that can come into play. 

A secondary service connection can appear in many different ways. One way is that it can come from a condition or injury that was received in the line of duty. For example, if there is a Veteran who has PTSD, and then later develops chronic migraines, there is a good chance that the migraines came from the initial condition of PTSD. That would make the migraines a secondary service connection because it still came from the Veteran’s experience in the line of duty. It wasn’t as direct as a regular injury or condition that would have been received. However, because the original origin of the condition is still in the military experience, it can become service-connected if the Veteran works at it hard enough. 

Of course, getting service-connected is only step one. The Department of Veterans Affairs frequently provides a low VA disability 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.

They can do this via the supplemental veterans claim lane for VA disability compensation. This is the process of going back to the VA and appealing to the percentage they assigned to a specific injury or medical condition. It’s how Veterans can get a higher percentage than their initially prescribed percentage and make sure that they get all the help they need, given their circumstances. It can be hard to go back to the VA with an appeal, and so it can often be very beneficial to get an outside legal team to help work with the Veteran when appealing to the decision that has already been made. If any Veteran is having trouble with the VA, they should reach out to Berry Law. This legal organization can help ensure a legal victory due to the years of experience and victory that the law firm has. 

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 uses the following ratings for migraines:

  • 10% for medical 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 or frequent 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 rating criteria, and assign the appropriate rating through their medical records. 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 that 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, we are dedicated to fighting the VA on behalf of fellow Veterans. Having helped Veterans in their fight for disability compensation for over 40 years, we understand the ins and outs of the bureaucracy that is the VA. We know how to help Veterans in any situation they find themselves in when it comes to dealing with the VA. If you need assistance appealing an unfavorable VA decision, contact one of the skilled Veterans disability attorneys on our team today to schedule a free case evaluation and see how we can help.

 

Sources: 

https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html#:~:text=Migraines%20are%20a%20recurring%20type,sensitive%20to%20light%20and%20sound.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/