How Does the VA Rate Migraines?

How Does the VA Rate Migraines?

If you’re a Veteran who suffers from migraines, you know they can disrupt daily life and even disable you. Migraines are among the most common service-connected medical conditions Veterans can experience and are typically unpredictable. Some days, you may feel fine, and other days, the pain is so intense you may find it hard to function normally.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes migraines as a disabling condition, and Veterans may receive disability compensation from the VA. But how does the VA rate migraines, and how can you get the compensation you deserve to help you in dealing with them?

Getting compensation from the VA for migraines presents many challenges, so you need an experienced VA disability benefits attorney to help navigate the process and get you the compensation you deserve. Read on to discover more about migraines, how the VA rates them, and how to increase your chances of getting VA benefits.

What Are Migraine Headaches?

Most everyone gets a headache from time to time. However, migraines are usually more severe and can cause excruciating pain. They are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting,  a throbbing or pulsating sensation, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. 

Migraines can last a few hours to a few days and may occur several times per month or even more frequently. Because of this, they can disrupt virtually every aspect of your life, making you just want to lie down in a darkened room until the symptoms pass. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) classifies migraines as a disabling headache disorder “characterized by recurrent unilateral pulsatile headaches” and has assigned an ICD-10 code for billing and reimbursement purposes.

What Causes Migraine Headaches?

Physicians struggle to point to one specific cause for migraines, and a variety of factors can influence who gets them and how severe they are. 

Some common triggers include:

  • Weather changes
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Stress
  • Certain types of food or drink
  • Hormone changes

Additionally, researchers have noted that Veterans experience a higher occurrence of migraines than the civilian population, especially if s/he saw active combat, was exposed to loud noises, and/or had a history of falls, concussions, or neck injuries.

The VA reported that 36 percent of Veterans exhibited migraine symptoms or received a migraine diagnosis after a 12-month deployment in Iraq. In contrast, only around 12 percent of the general population experienced migraines.

The VA’s Migraine Ratings

The VA assigns ratings to determine the percentage of benefits Veterans may receive. The maximum rating for migraines is 50 percent, so you could receive up to 50 percent of your eligible benefits due to your condition.

The VA will consider the following when determining the rating for migraines:

  • Zero percent disability rating – Veterans who have only occasional migraines or symptoms that are not considered “prostrating attacks.”* 
  • Ten percent disability rating – Veterans who suffer from migraines with prostrating attacks every two months for several months.
  • Thirty percent disability rating – Veterans who suffer from migraines with prostrating attacks once a month over several months.
  • Fifty percent disability rating – Veterans who suffer from frequent and prolonged migraines with prostrating attacks, disruptive to their ability to maintain employment and conduct other daily functions. The VA classifies this as a severe economic inadaptability because it reduces one’s ability to work and earn a living. 

*Generally, the term “prostrating” means a person experiences extreme weakness due to migraines and must lie down for a long period of time. The VA uses this word to characterize how severe the headaches are.

Additionally, if your migraines are so frequent–multiple times per month–and severe, restricting your ability to maintain gainful employment, you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).

If approved, you will receive a 100 percent disability rating. Still, you must submit substantial evidence, including medical records, employment history, testimony from employers, and other forms of documentation supporting your claim.

These ratings and classifications have been the subject of intense litigation in the courts, particularly the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The language surrounding “prostrating attacks,” “severe economic inadaptability,” and “prolonged period of symptoms” is not clearly defined and, thus, is open to interpretation. As a result, many Veterans have received claim denials for their migraines.

Speak with an experienced VA benefits attorney right away if you don’t agree with the disability rating the VA assigned or if you received a claim denial for migraines.

Establishing a Service Connection to Migraines

To receive VA disability benefits for migraines, you must show:

  • You have a current migraine diagnosis.
  • You experienced an event, injury, or disease during service, which caused or contributed to your migraines, such as a concussion, other injury, or repeated exposure to loud noises.
  • You can establish a link between your military service and migraines—also called a medical nexus. A medical provider may establish the link after reviewing your service records and medical records.

Your migraines don’t have to be directly related to military service for you to receive VA benefits. Migraines are often caused or aggravated by other service-connected conditions, such as PTSD, chemical exposure, or tinnitus, among others.

Proving your migraines are service-related is typically one of the most challenging aspects of the process, so get help to obtain the benefits you deserve. 

How to Build a Strong VA Claim for Your Migraines

To build a strong claim for your migraines, you need to collect and submit as much evidence as you can to support your claim. 

To increase your chances of getting an approval:

  • Get regular medical treatment and follow your doctor’s orders: If you experience migraines—especially prostrating attacks—get a migraine diagnosis from a qualified physician and get medical treatment. Stay in regular contact with your doctor and follow their treatment plan. Not only will seeking regular medical care ensure your health and well-being, it creates medical records and other documentation, which you need to support your claim.
  • Maintain detailed records and a pain journal: Since the language surrounding migraine classifications is vague, keep a detailed migraine journal. Note each time you experience an attack and the type and severity of symptoms. Also, include any time you missed work and other significant impacts on your life. This can serve as invaluable evidence to corroborate your claim. Keep in mind that that frequency you experience attacks will influence your VA rating.
  • Work with an experienced VA benefits attorney: This is one of the most important steps you can take to receive approval for your claim and receive benefits. An attorney can submit detailed evidence correctly and promptly to increase your chances of approval. They can appeal a denied claim based on legal grounds and reduce the stress and anxiety you experience throughout the process.
  • Contact an Experienced VA Benefits Attorney for Your Migraine Claim

    Whether you are in the process of submitting your initial claim or you received a claim denial from the VA, you can greatly improve your chance of favorable results if you work with a VA benefits attorney in your area.

    Many of the VA disability benefits attorneys at Berry Law are Veterans ourselves, with more than 300 years of collective military service. Berry Law has helped more than 14,000 Veterans receive their rightful benefits for migraines and other service-related conditions, recovering over $300 million in back pay and other benefits. We have served Veterans for more than 50 years across the country, and we promise to do all we can to help you get the full and rightful benefits you deserve.

    Contact us today for your confidential consultation.

    ptsd attorney john berry
    VA Disability Claim Attorney, John Berry
    Berry Law

    The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

    This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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