VA Disability for Migraines and Prostrating Headache

Category: Veterans Disability Law

Article by Daniel J. Tuley

VA Disability for Migraines and Prostrating Headache

When a veteran is disabled in some way during their active military service, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for compensating them. One of the most commonly claimed VA disabilities is when veterans suffer from migraines. Migraines can restrict a veteran’s ability to work and significantly damage their quality of life. If you are a veteran who developed migraines as a result of your time in the military, you may be entitled to VA disability benefits.

What Is a Migraine?

In short, a migraine is a severe headache that can last for hours or days. In addition to pain, migraines are typically also associated with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Intense pulsing or throbbing in the head
  • Extreme sensitivity to visual and auditory stimuli

Individuals who experience migraines can also experience certain symptoms before their migraine attack occurs. These warning signs include things like:

  • Mood changes
  • Food cravings
  • Constipation
  • Neck stiffness
  • Frequent yawning
  • Increased thirst and urination

Beyond these symptoms, some individuals experience physical and visual stimuli called an “aura” similar to those who have seizures. An aura can include any of the following experiences:

  • Various visual phenomena (e.g., bright shapes, flashes of light)
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Vision loss
  • The sensation of sharp objects in an arm or leg

After a migraine ends, affected individuals often feel exhausted and do not have the energy to continue their daily activities. Migraines are typically treated through a combination of medicine and changes in one’s lifestyle.

Migraines can be triggered by a multitude of factors including:

  • Sleep problems
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Medications
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal problems
  • Eye injuries

With so many causes, it’s no surprise that migraines are as prevalent as they are.

VA Service Connection for Migraines

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, roughly 39 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines. Deployed veterans experience this disability at a higher rate due to the nature of military service. Disproportionate exposure to intense visual/auditory stimuli, traumatic events, and prolonged stress can take its toll. Injuries caused by explosions, falls, combat, or concussion can all contribute to migraine development.

Because of the overlap between military service and the causes for a migraine, the VA recognizes migraines as a service-connected disability. This means that as long as a veteran can prove their migraines began in service, the condition will be assumed to be service-connected unlike some other disabilities which might require further testing or documentation. Migraines can also be recognized as a secondary condition that developed as a result of a primary service-connected condition.

Similar to other VA disability claims, to prove service-connection a veteran must provide three pieces of evidence:

  • A current diagnosis from a medical professional
  • Documentation of an event or period that led to the condition
  • A medical nexus that links the diagnosis to the event or period in question — this is typically a medical professional’s opinion

VA Disability Rating for Migraines

The VA migraine rating criteria revolves around the intensity and frequency of subsequent migraine attacks. Although migraines are fairly common and can be debilitating amongst veterans, the maximum schedular VA disability rating for migraines is 50%. It is possible to receive more compensation if you qualify for Individual Unemployability benefits, however, this means that your migraines are so severe you are incapable of finding and/or keeping work.

When deciding whether a veteran will receive a rating of 0%, 10%, 30%, or 50%, there are a few terms the VA looks for:

  • Prostrating — When the migraine causes extreme exhaustion or incapacitation with significant inability to engage in normal activities. Prostrating headaches often require a long period of rest to recover from.
  • Completely prostrating — The migraine causes extreme exhaustion that creates a total inability to perform normal activities.
  • Very frequent — The prostrating attacks have been less than one month apart over the last several months.
  • Less frequent — On average, the prostrating attacks are more than two months apart over the last several months.
  • Severe economic inadaptability — This term denotes a degree of occupational impairment. The individual may still be able to perform work, but they take sick leave or unpaid absence for their condition.

Mention of a “prostrating migraine” can significantly increase the chances of receiving benefits from a VA disability claim for migraines.

Receiving a Migraine Rating of 0-10

The specific VA disability rating an individual receives depends heavily on the above factors. Individuals who experience mild migraines with less frequent attacks will usually receive a 0% rating, meaning they don’t get any disability benefits.

If a veteran averages at least one attack every two months over the last several months, and those attacks are characteristic and prostrating, they may qualify for a 10% VA rating. Aside from the frequency, a 30% rating requires virtually the same level of severity.

In 2024, a 10% VA disability rating will earn a veteran $171.23 a month.

Getting a 30% Migraine Rating

Proving that your service-connected migraine deserves a 30% disability rating requires adequate knowledge about the rating criteria. The three main components of this rating are characteristic, prostrating, and a frequency of once a month on average.

The term characteristic implies that a veteran’s headaches are the typical prostrating attacks and without them, the veteran would not be considered to have a migraine disorder. The term prostrating once again refers to severity — the headache is debilitating, and the veteran requires a long period of rest before they can perform normal activities again. The third criteria refers to the frequency of a veteran’s condition. This criteria is the determining factor between receiving a rating of 30% or a rating of 10%. If the veteran’s migraines occur on average at least once a month over the last several months, 30%, if less than once a month on average, 10%.

A 30% VA disability rating will earn a veteran $524.31 a month in 2024.

50% Disability for Migraines

To differentiate between a 30% rating and a 50% rating, the VA includes a few extra requirements. The components of a 50% rating include very frequent, prolonged, completely prostrating, and conducive to severe economic inadaptability.

For an individual to receive a rating of very frequent, they must experience migraines more than once a month on average, a veteran having two or three attacks a month would meet the standard for very frequent. Completely prostrating means a veteran is entirely bedridden during their headache. Beyond laying down to rest for a prostrating migraine, a completely prostrating migraine likely prevents an individual from sitting or standing up.

The other requirements are only important when dealing with a 50% rating. The first is prolonged, which refers to the actual duration an individual experiences a migraine for. While there is no specific outline for how long they must last, the veteran must be able to show that the migraine lasts for a significant amount of time. The other requirement pertains to a veteran’s ability — or inability — to work. To qualify for severe economic inadaptability, a migraine must cause a veteran to be absent several days in a typical month.

In 2024, 50% VA disability rating will earn a veteran $1,075.16 a month.

If the veteran cannot work and qualifies for Individual Unemployability benefits from their condition, they will earn $3,737.85 a month in 2024. The amount received for a rating of 30% or above can change subject to having dependents, children, and/or a spouse.

Getting an Accurate Rating

The more information you can provide, the better chances you have of receiving the correct benefits. It might be useful to keep a VA migraine log that detail your specific symptoms and when they occurred.

Depending on your situation, the VA may also require you to attend a compensation and pension (C&P) exam. A C&P examiner is a VA-approved medical professional that will ask you questions and have you fill out a disability benefits questionnaire (DBQ). The answers you give at a C&P exam and on a VA DBQ headaches form are essential to getting an accurate rating.

Be honest, be thorough, and be outright about your struggles. Do not be afraid to complain otherwise you will trivialize your symptoms and likely end up with a lower disability rating than you deserve. If this is your first time making a VA disability claim or you’d just like to increase your chances of receiving a favorable decision, it might also be beneficial to hire a VA disability lawyer to help you through the process.

Tuley Law Office

The experienced attorneys of Tuley Law Office have the knowledge and experience to answer any questions you may have on the claim or claim appeals process related to service-connected migraine and headache rating.

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