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VA Disability Benefits For Migraines

Last updated: April 12, 2023

An occasional mild headache is not a cause of concern, but migraines are a more serious health problem. Veterans who suffer from debilitating migraines often find that their life is significantly affected by this severe neurological condition.

Veterans benefits attorneys consider migraines a high-value claim because service-related migraines are often rated at 30% or higher in the VA disability ratings. Veterans suffering from migraine headaches can receive up to 50% disability benefits.

What Are Migraines?

Migraines are severe headaches triggered by changes in the levels of chemicals in the brain. They’re often accompanied by dizziness, nausea, as well as extreme sensitivity to sound and light. Visual disturbances and tingling sensations are common symptoms of aura migraines, which may result in speech impediments.

Migraine attacks can last from a few hours to several days. An extremely severe migraine attack may leave the sufferer bedridden. The effectiveness of medications can vary widely from person to person, but they are helpful to reduce symptoms.

How To Diagnose Migraines?

Primary care providers often misdiagnose migraines as tension headaches or sinus headaches. Veterans suffering from migraine should consult with a neurologist who can examine them and diagnose the condition based on their medical history, symptoms, and physical examination.

Upon receiving your application for disability benefits, the VA will schedule a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. VA healthcare providers or VA contract healthcare providers perform this medical exam. This examination is free of charge since it is part of the VA's obligation to help veterans find evidence that supports their disability claim.

Causes Of Migraines In Veterans

There are many causes of migraine headaches, but veterans are more likely to suffer from them from service-related incidents. Migraine headaches are often related to traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, and neck injuries. These traumatic injuries are more likely to occur to veterans due to the nature of their work. A migraine may develop due to falling, being struck by an explosive device, or other incidents encountered during deployment.

Research has also shown that injuries to the head, neck, and concussions have a cumulative effect. Having one mild concussion may not result in migraines, but having multiple concussions over some time can result in a snowball effect leading to migraine headaches.

During active duty service, veterans often encounter toxic chemicals responsible for migraine headaches. In addition to increased stress and chronic sleep disturbances, service members also faced increased stress and increased stress levels. It is also possible that migraines develop due to existing service-connected conditions, such as PTSD or tinnitus. 

Connecting Service To Migraines

Establishing a clear relationship between service and migraine headaches is one of the most challenging parts of receiving VA disability benefits. You must first receive a thorough and meaningful diagnosis of your condition before establishing this relationship. Be honest about your symptoms. Keep track of how long, severe, and often the migraine symptoms occur. It is important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor to identify patterns over time.

Additionally, migraines can be associated with a medical "nexus," which means that the condition could be associated with other conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), mental health conditions, tinnitus, or musculoskeletal conditions. You should explore the potential for obtaining a medical nexus opinion and whether your migraine headaches are at least as likely to be service-related with an experienced VA accredited attorney if you have questions about your migraine headaches related to your military service or secondary to a service-connected condition.

As a secondary service-connected disability, migraines can also be caused by conditions that are directly related to service. Some of the conditions that may cause migraines are related to your service include:

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal injury
  • Eye injury

Migraines VA Ratings

Migraines rank eighth among veterans' most frequently claimed disabilities. Migraines are the most common disabling condition among veterans returning from Iraq. 36% of these veterans experience migraines.

According to the VA, migraines are rated based on the frequency of prostrating attacks. The term prostrating is defined as exhaustion, powerlessness, debilitation, disability, or incapacitation resulting in substantial incapacitation. According to 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8100, the following are the possible migraines VA ratings:

  • 50% - To qualify for the maximum VA disability rating for migraine headaches, you must suffer severe economic inadaptability caused by frequent complete prostration and prolonged attacks.
  • 30% - Likely, a veteran who suffers from migraines that cause prostration once a month over several months should receive a 30% disability rating.
  • 10% - A veteran is likely to qualify for a 10% disability rating if they suffer migraines with prostrating attacks every two months or more over several months.
  • 0% - The attacks are spread out over more than two months. In cases where migraines are only occasional, or their symptoms do not include prostrating attacks, the disability rating may only be non-compensable or zero.

You may find it helpful to keep a journal that describes the time, date, length, and specific symptoms associated with each attack. A letter from friends, family, or coworkers who are familiar with your symptoms can also help gain a higher disability rating.

TDIU Benefits for Migraines

Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits may be available to veterans with a total disability rating of 70% or more and migraines rated at 50%. According to schedular criteria, these benefits provide 100% cash compensation to veterans.

The veterans must also prove that they are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment and meet the disability rating criteria. A veteran in this situation would have an employment opportunity that pays more than a poverty-level wage without making any voluntary special accommodations for their disability.Are you interested in learning more about the various options and programs that help people with disabilities? Read more of Disability Help’s resources on our website!

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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