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What to Know About Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits With Migraine

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When a veteran experiences migraine, the impact on their life and duties can be profound. VA disability benefits are in place to support those whose service has led to or aggravated this condition.

Understanding Migraine as a Qualifying Condition

Migraine is a serious condition that affects many veterans deeply. It’s not just a regular headache but includes symptoms such as nausea, extreme sensitivity to light, and intense pain. Recognizing migraine as a potentially disabling condition, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may provide benefits for those with service-connected migraine, offering support when these headaches affect their ability to maintain substantially gainful employment.

Living with migraine can significantly disrupt a veteran’s life. It may lead to “frequent completely prostrating” episodes, which are attacks that leave the veteran utterly incapacitated. In recognizing the severity of these episodes, the VA uses diagnostic code 8100 to evaluate migraine as a service-connected disability.

The VA Disability Rating System for Migraine

The VA’s rating system for migraine considers how the condition’s frequency and severity impact a veteran’s earnings. For instance, a veteran may receive a VA rating for migraine if their migraine attacks are completely prostrating and prolonged, significantly hindering their work capacity. Ratings may range from a 0% to 50% disability, with the higher end typically assigned to those experiencing “frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.”

How the Rating System Works

  • 0% Rating: A veteran with a 0% rating has migraine, but it doesn’t affect their work much.
  • 10% to 50% Rating: As migraine worsens, making it harder to work, the rating increases. The more a veteran’s work is affected, the higher the rating may be.

What the Ratings Mean for Veterans

  • 10% Rating: This might be given if a veteran has migraine attacks that are bad enough to affect work but occur infrequently.
  • 30% Rating: A veteran could get this rating if their migraine attacks happen more regularly and cause more problems with their daily work.
  • 50% Rating: This is the highest rating for migraine. It’s for veterans who have very frequent migraine attacks that make working a regular job hard.

The VA uses different information to decide a veteran’s rating, like:

  • How Often: How many times does the veteran get a migraine? Once a month? Once a week?
  • How Bad: How intense are the migraine attacks? Do they make it impossible to think or work?
  • How Long: How long do the migraine attacks last? A few hours? A whole day?
  • Work Impact: How do the migraine attacks affect the veteran’s job? Do they have to leave work or lie in a dark room until the migraine ends?

More About the Impact on Work

The VA knows that migraine can make it hard to keep a job or work full-time. They consider things like:

  • If a veteran needs to take breaks often during work because of migraine.
  • If a veteran sometimes can’t go to work at all because the migraine is too bad.
  • If migraine makes it hard for the veteran to focus or see things clearly, which is essential for many jobs.

Getting the Right Rating

Veterans need to tell the VA all about their migraine attacks when they apply for benefits. They should share:

  • How migraine changes what they can do at work and home.
  • Any treatments they’ve tried and if those treatments help.
  • Notes from doctors or headache logs that show how migraine affects them.

By giving the VA clear and detailed information, veterans can get the correct disability rating, which is important not only for proper care but also for financial benefits to help with their needs because of how migraine affects their lives. The VA rating for migraine helps ensure veterans get the support they need.

Applying for VA Disability for Migraine

Applying for VA disability due to migraine starts with a claim. This is a request made to the VA asking for support because of migraine. When a veteran does this, they need to show proof that their migraine is linked to their service in the military.

Step by Step: How to Apply

  1. Fill out the claim form: Veterans start by filling out the necessary paperwork for a disability claim. This form asks for information about their military service and their health.
  2. Gather medical records: Next, veterans need to collect all their health records that show they have been diagnosed with migraine.
  3. Include treatment details: It’s important also to have records of what treatments have been tried. This shows what the veteran has done to try to get better.
  4. Describe the migraine’s impact: Veterans should explain how migraine affects them. This includes how often they have attacks and how bad they are.
  5. Connect the migraine to service: They must show that it is connected to their time in the military. This might be through medical opinions or service records.

Necessary Medical Evidence

The VA needs to see evidence that a veteran has migraine. This proof can be:

  • Doctor’s diagnosis: A report from a doctor saying the veteran has migraine.
  • List of symptoms: A record of migraine symptoms and how they affect the veteran.
  • Medications: A list of all the medicines the veteran takes for migraine.
  • Doctor visits: Dates and reasons for any doctor visits related to migraine.
  • Treatment results: Information on how well treatments worked or didn’t work.

The Role of VA Examinations

After a veteran sends in their claim, the VA might ask them to come for an exam. This is what happens during those exams:

  • Meeting with a health care provider: The veteran will talk to a doctor or nurse about their migraine.
  • Medical Review: The health care provider will review the veteran’s medical records.
  • Service connection: The provider will decide if the migraine is related to the veteran’s military service.
  • Disability rating suggestion: The health care provider will suggest a disability rating based on how severe the migraine is.

Tips for a Strong Claim

  • Be thorough: Give as much detail as possible about the migraine and how it affects daily life.
  • Be honest: Tell the truth about how often and how severely migraine attacks occur.
  • Keep records: Write down every migraine attack and keep a diary if possible.
  • Follow up: Stay in touch with the VA about the claim and attend any scheduled exams.

By following these steps and providing the proper evidence, veterans can make a strong case for getting VA disability benefits for migraine. The goal is to show the VA exactly how migraine affects their life and why they deserve support.

Managing Your Migraine-Related VA Disability

If you’re a veteran with a disability due to migraine, it’s important to keep track of how it affects you. If your migraine gets worse, you might need more help. This means you can ask for a higher disability rating from the VA, which could give you more benefits.

When to Ask for More Help

  • If your migraine worsens: You may have more pain or more frequent attacks.
  • If new problems start: Sometimes, migraine can lead to other issues like trouble seeing or feeling dizzy.

How to Ask for a Higher Rating

  1. Get proof of the change: See your doctor and get records that show how your migraine has changed.
  2. Fill out the paperwork: The VA has forms to fill out to request a re-check of your rating.
  3. Send in your request: After you fill out the forms and gather your new medical records, send everything to the VA.

If You Need to Appeal

  • If the VA says no: Sometimes, the VA might not agree that your migraine has worsened. If this happens, you can appeal, which means you ask them to look again.
  • Get more evidence: You may need more doctor’s notes or a letter explaining how your migraine affects your work or daily life.
  • Consider legal help: A lawyer who knows about VA benefits can help you with your appeal. They understand the system and can give you advice on what to do.

Keep Managing Your Migraine

  • Follow your treatment plan: Keep up with your doctor’s treatment for your migraine.
  • Stay informed: Learn about new treatments or programs for veterans with migraine.
  • Get support: Talk to other veterans or groups that understand what it’s like to live with migraine.

By staying on top of changes in your health and keeping the VA updated, you can make sure you’re getting the right amount of support for your migraine-related disability.

Getty image by MoMo Productions

Originally published: November 10, 2023
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