Most people get headaches from time to time, and they can range in severity from a mild throbbing sensation to a debilitating migraine. Severe headaches often cause foggy thought processes, pulsing pain, and 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 to report your headaches and receive 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.
Read on to learn more about VA ratings for headaches and what you need to demonstrate to receive VA benefits. For specific advice regarding your case and to get assistance filing your initial claim or appealing a denied claim, contact an experienced VA benefits attorney in your area.
If you get headaches 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 Veteran’s 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. The VA rating scale classifies 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 – If the duration of prostrating attacks is more than two months apart on average, you may receive a 0% rating. If you get a prostrating attack every two months over a period of several months, the VA may assign a 10% rating.
Very Frequent – If you get prostrating attacks once a month on average over a period of several months, the VA may assign a 30% rating. Migraines that are completely prostrating and prolonged and result in severe economic inadaptability will likely receive a 50% rating.
When a VA rating specialist reviews your disability claim, they will look for existing evidence that your migraine is “prostrating” (causing both weakness and the need to lie down). Many times, this information will jump off the page and get the rating specialist’s attention. 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 have them complete a Headaches Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ), which includes migraines. If you’re already receiving benefits for service-connected migraines but at a lower level, the VA may increase your rating based on the information your physician provides in the DBQ. An important section of the DBQ to focus on is Section IV – Prostrating Attacks of Headache Pain.
Additionally, you should 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.
To receive service connection for headaches, like all conditions, you will need to prove three elements:
If a Veteran can prove all three of the elements listed above, they should receive a VA disability for headaches.
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 a secondary service connection for headaches if it is caused by another service-connected condition.
Along with TBIs and mental disorders, other common secondary service-connection issues include:
Other secondary service-connected conditions can cause or worsen migraines. It is important to work with your doctor and your VA claim representative to discuss all the issues you are dealing with.
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.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.