How to Get Disability for Migraines


Virginia Disability Lawyer Corey Pollard Helps Individuals Suffering from Migraines Qualify for SSDI and SSI Benefits


According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines affect more than 35 million men, women, and children in the United States each year. Migraines are the 6th most disabling medical condition in the world, with more than 4 million adults in the U.S. experiencing at least 15 migraine days per month where they have difficulty functioning or working. With migraines often come depression, anxiety, and insomnia.


Migraines can affect your ability to work and maintain full-time employment. If so, you may qualify for Social Security disability for chronic migraines.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has not published an impairment listing that provides the medical criteria you must satisfy to qualify for disability for migraines. This does not mean you will lose your disability claim automatically. It does mean, however, that you must build and develop the medical evidence in your migraine case to give yourself a reasonable chance of getting approved for SSDI or SSI benefits. If you can prove that migraines cause significant limitation in your ability to function daily or to maintain concentration, pace, and persistence at work, you may get approved for disability.


This article discusses how to qualify for disability for migraines and their residual effects. Please keep reading to learn more. And contact Corey Pollard if you are seeking legal representation for your Social Security disability claim based on migraines. All consultations are free and there is no fee unless you get approved for benefits.


What are Migraines?


A migraine headache is a throbbing pain that ranges from moderate to severe. It can affect one or both sides of the head and is usually worsened by physical activity, stress, or attempts to concentrate and focus.


There is no cure for migraines, but treatment can help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.


Who Suffers from Migraines?


Migraines can affect anyone at any age. But they are three times more common among women. Roughly 18% of all women and 6% of all men have at least one migraine per year.


You may qualify for disability for migraines if they become chronic and occur multiple times per month.


In many cases migraines run in families. The majority of people with migraines have a close relative who also suffers from migraines.


What are Common Causes of Migraines?


There are many potential causes, or “triggers”, of migraines. These include:


  • Lack of sleep
  • Changes in the weather
  • Excessive stimulation of the senses (flashing lights, loud noises, or strong smells)
  • Stress
  • Certain foods and drinks
  • Estrogen, which explains why more women suffer from migraines than men
  • Genetic defects on chromosomes 1, 2, and 19, which are responsible for a subtype of migraine called familial hemiplegic migraine


What are Common Symptoms of Migraines?


Migraines cause intense pain, nausea, and vomiting. Many migraine suffers report having to go to a dark room where they can lie down in complete quiet until the headache goes away.


Migraine attacks may last anywhere from a few hours to several days. The frequency of these attacks varies from person to person.


Some people experience an aura prior to suffering a migraine headache. The aura causes disturbances in the senses and may affect vision, balance, speech, and coordination.


What Treatment Can I Receive for My Migraine Headaches?


As we said above, migraines are incurable. But they can be controlled and have their impact reduced.


Common treatment includes:


  • Therapy to help you recognize possible triggers and reduce them
  • Triptans (Sumatriptan, Eletriptan, ettc.)
  • Anticonvulsants (Topiramate)
  • Beta-blockers (Atenolol, Propranolol, Metoprolol)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Amitriptyline)
  • Opioids (Oxycodone, codeine)


Can I Be Approved and Awarded Social Security Disability if I Have Migraines?


You can receive disability for migraines, but it won’t be easy. Here are some tips to get approved for disability if your chronic migraines affect your ability to work, function, and complete your activities of daily living:


1. Document Your Migraine History.


Documentation is one of the keys to winning your migraine disability case.


We recommend keeping a headache diary. Write down the number, date, and time of your migraine headache attacks. You should also write down the possible triggers, whether you experienced an aura, and how long each migraine lasted.


You should take a copy of the headache diary to your doctor so that he or she can put it in your official medical record. You should also send a copy to your disability attorney so that he or she can submit it to the SSA’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).


2. Get Supportive Statements from Your Doctor


You must be receiving ongoing medical treatment to have a chance at winning your disability claim for migraines.


Ask your treating physician to provide a written statement that includes the following: your diagnosis; your prognosis; attempted treatment; your response to treatment; and details regarding the limitations caused by your migraines. It is not enough for your doctor to write that your migraines cause permanent disability. The SSA will look for specifics on how your migraines affect your ability to maintain a job.


If medication is controlling your migraines, then it is unlikely that you will get approved for disability. Your doctor should address the response you’ve had to medication, the changes and adjustments made to your medications, and what treatment you will need in the future for migraines.


3. Provide All Treatment Notes Related to Your Migraines


In addition to a supportive statement from your treating physician or neurologist, you should also provide the SSA with copies of all records relating to treatment for your migraines. This includes clinical examinations, office notes, hospitalizations, MRIs, CT scans, and pharmacy printouts.


Clinical examination notes and hospitalizations are important because they can corroborate your testimony. If you have consistently reported migraines and sought medical treatment, or if the doctor notes show that you have tried multiple medications without success, then the administrative law judge deciding your case at a disability hearing is more likely to find you credible.


MRIs and CT scans are helpful because they provide objective support for your pain complaints.


4. Focus on Your Symptoms, Not Your Diagnosis


The Social Security Administration is more interested in how your disability affects your day-to-day life, not your official diagnosis. Do not downplay your symptoms or exaggerate your capabilities. Tell the SSA what tasks you are no longer able to perform regularly because of your migraine attacks.


5. Include a Narrative Statement When You File for Disability


The disability claims examiner reviewing your application for SSDI or SSI benefits is not necessarily a medical expert or someone familiar with migraines and their effects. This is why we recommend writing a lengthy and detailed statement outlining all your symptoms, including their frequency and severity, when you file for disability for migraines.


We recommend having a disability lawyer review your statement before filing for Social Security benefits.


6. Provide a Detailed Work History with Examples of How Migraines Affected Your Job Performance


In my opinion some of the strongest evidence you can present in a Social Security case are actual examples of how your migraines affected your job performance. If you were disciplined, demoted, or fired because of absences related to migraines or headaches, or if you missed a lot of time from work or took FMLA leave because of the condition, that information can help improve your credibility.


Ask your previous employers to provide written statements describing the problems they observed you having on the job due to migraines.


7. Don’t Forget Your Other Medical Conditions


Those of you who suffer from migraines may also experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia. If so, make sure you include these diagnoses in your initial application for benefits.


Contact a Disability Attorney with Experience Helping Migraine Suffers Receive SSDI and SSI Benefits


Following the tips above and consulting with a Social Security lawyer will ensure that your disability application includes all necessary information and gives you the best chance of winning your case.


Don’t be discouraged if, however, your initial application for SSDI or SSI benefits is denied. Most claims are. We recommend filing a Social Security disability appeal and taking your case to hearing if necessary. Winning your battle for disability for chronic migraines may be difficult, but it will be worth it.


By proving that you suffer from migraines more than two days per month and that each migraine lasts at least 4 hours per day, you greatly increase your likelihood of getting approved for disability. This is because most vocational experts will testify that an individual is unable to maintain gainful employment if he or she misses two or more days of work each month due to migraines.


In the alternative, you may be able to show that you would be off task at least 15 percent of the day or more on multiple days each month because of your chronic headaches and migraines. This is sufficient to be awarded SSDI or SSI.


Richmond disability lawyer and Newport News SSDI attorney Corey Pollard has helped hundreds of individuals across Virginia obtain SSD benefits, many of whom suffered from chronic migraines and severe headaches. If you are unable to work because of migraines or any other physical or mental condition, we can help. Call us at 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 or complete the online consultation form to your right. We can help you obtain financial security.