In many areas of life there are ordinary things and then there are extraordinary ones. It is true of headaches: there are ordinary headaches related to stress or tension, and then there are migraine headaches.
When it comes to qualifying for US Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits for a service-connected disability, the difference between a migraine and an ordinary headache can be the difference between receiving all the benefits you are entitled to or only some of them, or not receiving any benefits at all.
It follows, then, that understanding what migraine headaches are, how they happen, and how the VA rates them as disabilities is important to you if you are a military service veteran who is experiencing severe headaches after your separation from service.
At Stone Rose Law, our highly experienced VA disability and benefits attorneys know exactly how the VA treats migraine headaches and how to help you receive the maximum amount of disability benefits available if you are suffering from service-connected migraines. If you are considering filing a VA claim for disability benefits, for migraines or any other reason, we are here for you. Call us at (480) 498-8998 to set up a free consultation with one of our VA disability lawyers today.
If you can prove that you suffer from them, the VA recognizes migraine headaches as a compensable service-connected disability. A little more than 10 percent of new VA disability compensation claims include migraine headaches in the claim.
This percentage might under-represent the prevalence of migraines among veterans and their seriousness, for at least three reasons:
The VA allows for four disability ratings for a migraine headache condition: 0 percent, 10 percent, 30 percent, and a maximum rating of 50 percent. Each of these ratings has its own criteria to qualify for benefits.
Also, as we will show below, there is one possible way that migraines can qualify you for 100 percent total disability benefits.
Before we discuss specific rating levels for migraines, we need to cover some specific language the VA uses to describe the severity of migraines. Here are some helpful descriptions.
Now that we can understand what these modifiers mean, let’s examine the individual disability ratings.
A 0 percent disability rating is one you can qualify for if your migraines are infrequent or do not involve a prostrating attack. This disability rating does not qualify you for monthly VA disability compensation. It does, however, mean that you can receive other VA benefits including VA healthcare benefits through the VA hospital system.
Other benefits you can receive with a 0 percent disability rating include mental health counseling and even qualifying for a VA home loan mortgage. A VA disability lawyer can help you to know all the non-monetary benefits you may be entitled to.
This rating involves migraine headaches that happen once every couple of months over the past several months. These migraines must be prostrating in nature.
Under this rating, you are experiencing prostrating migraines averaging once a month over the past several months.
This disability requires you to have more frequent and completely prostrating and prolonged migraines, leading to severe economic inadaptability.
The VA recognizes that in some situations, often when you have more than one disability, you can still be totally disabled functionally even if the regular VA Math calculation for multiple disabilities does not get you to 100 percent.
One way the VA helps veterans to receive total disability benefits is through TDIU. To qualify for TDIU, you must fit into both of the following requirements:
Because migraines top out at 50 percent for a separate VA disability rating, in most cases we cannot use a migraine headache condition by itself to reach the 60 percent threshold for a single TDIU disability. One possible exception here is what the VA calls extraschedular TDIU. This is a migraine condition that, based on your unique situation, by itself prevents you from having substantially gainful employment. The VA reviews extraschedular claims on a case-by-case basis, and you will need to provide medical and occupational evidence in support.
Otherwise, if you have a 50 percent maximum disability rating for migraines then it could, in combination with another disability, reach the alternative 70 percent combined disability requirement above.
A migraine headache condition qualifies as a VA disability if you can meet the same eligibility criteria for most other disabilities you can experience while in military service. Generally, you must prove all of the following:
Our Stone Rose VA Disability Lawyers page provides a more detailed description of how to meet these three requirements. When it comes to qualifying for migraine-based disability compensation, the most challenging of the three is usually showing a service connection.
If you can trace a direct connection between an in-service event that caused you to begin experiencing migraines, like one or more traumatic brain injuries that you were diagnosed with in your military medical records, then this is the easiest way to show a service connection. But it is not the only way.
In some cases your migraine condition may be a secondary condition to another qualifying disability like a neck injury.
Especially for initial disability claims, the VA can schedule you for a C&P examination. This examination is a combination of an interview with a VA examiner and a medical examination. The purpose of the C&P examination is to help the VA resolve any questions it has about the existence of your disability and whether it is service-connected.
To prepare for your C&P examination, you complete a Public Disability Benefits Questionnaire, or DBQ for short. The DBQ is a VA form that you can download from the VA website. Your treating doctor or other health care provider should also have these forms available.
The VA maintains many kinds of DBQs for different disabilities. One specific DBQ is for neurological conditions, including headaches and migraines:
The headaches and migraines DBQ is five pages long. It has several sections that ask for information on topics including your medical treatment history, your symptoms generally, any prostrating attacks you have had, diagnostic test results, and the functional impact of your migraines such as whether they affect your ability to work.
A section of the headaches and migraines DBQ, diagnosing prostrating conditions
Your doctor will complete the DBQ, but you can help by making sure to give your doctor as much relevant information about your symptoms as you can. Some specific things you can do include:
During your C&P examination, you should answer the VA examiner’s questions directly and thoroughly, but be careful not to exaggerate your symptoms or to volunteer information outside the scope of the examiner’s questions.
After your C&P exam is finished, request a copy of the examiner’s report. This can come in handy if for any reason the VA examiner finds against your migraine condition claim. If need be, you can also ask for a second medical opinion if the VA examiner’s conclusions are negative.
A migraine is like a mild stress or tension headache, only “more.” Much more. A migraine headache is a moderate to severe headache that can become so bad it causes you to experience impairment in your life. One of the reasons for this is because unlike normal headaches a migraine can occur frequently and can persist for hours or even days when it strikes.
Medically speaking, we can break a migraine headache into four phases:
Migraine headache pain is often so debilitating that 90 percent of the time someone experiencing a migraine cannot work or participate in normal life activities. Employers in the United States lose more than 150 million work days from employees who are susceptible to migraines.
Migraine headaches are commonplace. About 30 million Americans get migraines; about 10 percent of the American population are migraine sufferers.
One statistic that may be even more dire than the points above is this: the vast majority of people who experience migraines do not do anything to treat them medically, preferring instead to endure their symptoms while lying still in a quiet, dark room.
Only about 5 percent of migraine sufferers will go to a pain expert or other medical specialist about their condition.
Headaches, including mild headaches, are a frequent consequence of military service. According to one study, almost two-thirds of veterans who experience a traumatic brain injury will be susceptible to headaches later on. About one-third of veterans will need headache treatment from a neurologist.
From another study, we learn that since September 11, 2001 one-fifth of US military combat veterans have experienced either migraines or other chronic headaches. About one of every three veterans who deployed to Iraq for 12 months is subsequently diagnosed with or shows migraine headache symptoms. This is three times the rate for the American population as a whole.
There is no single cause for migraine headaches. What we do know about them is that there are some events that can happen in your life that can increase the likelihood that you will become a migraine sufferer. Military personnel who in particular are exposed to falls, head blows, loud noises, or intense visual stimulation––combat in particular––have a higher risk of becoming susceptible to migraines later in civilian life.
Some of the more common sources of migraine conditions are:
The VA does not require you to use a VA disability lawyer when you make an initial disability benefits claim or a supplemental claim. Nor does the VA make you retain an attorney to appeal a claim denial.
For example, if you want to prepare and file your own claim without assistance, you can download VA Form 21-526EZ, fill it out as best you can, then send it back to the VA online, by mail, or in person at your nearest VA regional office.
Many times, though, it pays to have an expert VA lawyer on your side from the beginning. The best way to avoid an initial claim denial is to be meticulous when you are preparing it. Do you have all the evidence you need? How much evidence is enough? Do you need to get more? Where do you get it? Do you know what behaviors VA examiners are looking for to find against your claim in a C&P exam? Have you filled the VA form completely and correctly?
Remember, the VA rejects about one-third of initial disability claim applications. An experienced VA disability and benefits attorney can help reduce the chance of you being among that unlucky one third of applicants.
Something else to consider is this: the VA may seem like a monolith on the outside, but on the inside it is made up of human beings who––like all humans––occasionally make mistakes when considering claim benefits applications.
Even among VA examiners and other personnel, migraine-based disability claims can be tricky because much of the symptoms, diagnostics, and descriptive terms are subjective in nature.
This can lead to improper claim denials, or more often a disability misrating that is less than what you qualify for.
Economic inadaptability, for example, is often the source of confusion at the VA level that leads to 50 percent disability rating claims being reduced to 30 percent instead.
If this kind of error on the VA side happens to you, then you can appeal a claim denial or misrating. And like an initial claim, you can do that on your own. But at this point the stakes are high, because if you lose your appeal you may not get another chance to set the record straight and receive the full and fair amount of disability compensation you deserve.
Why take that chance? Especially when you can have a highly experienced, quality, VA accredited attorney on your side from start to finish––and for little or no cost to you? It’s possible if you call us at Stone Rose Law.
At Stone Rose Law, we are first and foremost VA disability advocates for veterans disability claims. We are board-certified VA claims lawyers who serve on behalf of veterans nationwide. Our VA accredited attorneys give you affordable, high-quality veterans appeals legal assistance.
Our veterans lawyers provide highly professional legal representation to military veterans, helping them through the VA process to receive all the veterans disability benefits they are entitled to.
A Stone Rose disability lawyer can help you prepare your disability claim, monitor your claim status and consult with you before disability examinations—all at no cost to you.
If the VA denies your original claim, our VA benefits law firm will assign a VA disability appeals lawyer to help you pursue a VA appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals while providing free representation on a contingency fee basis.
This means you won’t pay your VA disability lawyer any fees unless we win your appeal. For more information about how one of our VA disability lawyers can help you with your VA disability compensation claim or appeal, request a free assistance consultation at (480) 498-8998.
Or, if you prefer, you can reach us online to ask a question about veterans law, veterans disability benefits, or to set an appointment with one of our veterans lawyers for a free case evaluation.
We may not be able to take away your migraines. But when it comes to the figurative headaches you can experience when dealing with the VA in your initial claim or claim denial appeal, those we can deal with for you. Let us help. Call us today.