While an occasional headache that goes away after a few aspirin is nothing to be concerned about, migraines are a more serious matter. Migraines are a severe neurological condition that can significantly impact a veteran’s daily life. As such, service-connected migraines are often rated at 30% or higher, and veterans benefits attorneys consider migraines to be a high-value claim.
Migraines are severe headaches thought to result from changes in levels of different chemicals in regions of the brain. They’re often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and extreme sensitivity to sound and light. Migraines with aura can include visual disturbances and tingling sensations, and speaking can be difficult.
Migraine attacks can last from a few hours to a few days. With a severe attack, the sufferer may be completely bedridden. Medications can help reduce symptoms, but their effectiveness varies widely from person to person.
Migraines are often misdiagnosed by primary care providers as tension or sinus headaches. A veteran with suspected migraines should consult a neurologist who can make the appropriate diagnosis based on medical history, symptoms, and the results of a physical and neurological examination.
A Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam will be scheduled when the VA receives your application for disability benefits. This is a medical exam performed by a VA healthcare provider or a VA contracted provider. There is no cost to you for this examination because it is considered part of the VA’s duty to assist veterans in finding evidence to support their disability claims.
Establishing a Service Connection
Migraine headaches can have several different causes. If your migraines started while you were in the military, you might be able to establish a service connection by showing evidence of the event or condition that triggered your symptoms. For example, repeated exposure to explosives, extremely loud noises, burn pits, or chemical solvents may trigger migraines in certain individuals.
Migraines can also be a secondary service-connected disability that is caused by a condition with a direct service connection. Migraines can be caused by a number of conditions linked to your service, including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal injury
- Eye injury
How Migraines Are Rated
Migraines are ranked eighth on the list of the most frequently claimed disabilities among veterans. Veterans returning from Iraq are most likely to seek disability benefits for migraines, with 36% experiencing this condition.
The VA rates migraines based on the frequency of a prostrating attack. Prostrating is defined as “causing extreme exhaustion, powerlessness, debilitation, or incapacitation with substantial inability to engage in ordinary activities.” Under 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8100, the following ratings are used:
- 50% - The attacks are frequent, prolonged, and result in economic inadaptability.
- 30% - The attacks occur on average once a month over the last several months.
- 10% - The attacks average one every two months over the last several months.
- 0% - The attacks are more than two months apart.
Keeping a journal that includes the date, time, length, and specific symptoms associated with each attack can help ensure your condition is rated appropriately. Letters from friends, family, or co-workers who have seen your symptoms firsthand can also prove valuable in winning a higher disability rating.
Receiving TDIU Benefits for Migraines
A veteran with a total disability rating of 70% or more and migraines that are rated 50% could potentially qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. These benefits provide cash compensation at the same rate as a veteran who is considered 100% disabled according to schedular criteria.
In addition to meeting the disability rating criteria, a veteran who wishes to receive TDIU must show proof that they are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment. This is defined as employment that provides more than a poverty-level wage without any voluntary special accommodations being made for the veteran’s disability.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
If you need to speak with an experienced veterans benefits lawyer, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.