Obtaining Disability Benefits for Migraines

November 28,2016
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Migraines affect more than 38 million people in the United States, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. In fact, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. Although some cases can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication, many people suffer from chronic migraines that greatly impact their daily lives. For some, migraines can even lead to disability. However, obtaining disability benefits for migraines requires evidence that your condition is severe, pervasive, and prevents you from substantial gainful activity.

What Is a Migraine?

A migraine is a neurological condition that is usually identified by a severe headache; however, migraines are much more than a simple headache. There are four distinct phases of a migraine: prodrome, aura, headache, and post-drome. Not all people experience all stages.

  • The prodrome stage may occur as much as two days before a severe migraine headache and may be indicated by mood changes, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst, and frequent yawning. Any change in behavior or mood may indicate the beginning of a migraine cycle.
  • The aura stage typically occurs hours before the headache begins and may include disturbances in visual, sensory, motor, and speech abilities. Muscle weakness, vision loss, weakness or numbness, difficulty speaking, and hallucinations are all common.
  • The headache stage of a migraine is typically what people refer to when describing their symptoms. It can last anywhere from four to 72 hours if untreated. Headaches may include severe pain on one or both sides of the head, pulsing, throbbing, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, and fainting.
  • The post-drome stage can occur for up to 24 hours after a migraine headache attack. It can include weakness, confusion, moodiness, dizziness, and even elation for some people.

Migraines often go undiagnosed and untreated; however, because they can have a severe impact on the lives of those who suffer them, obtaining disability benefits for migraines is important. Some people experience migraines infrequently, but others are inundated by frequent cycles that prevent them from working.

 When Are Migraines Disabling?

The Social Security Adult Listings of Impairments do not provide specific criteria for when migraines will be presumed to be disabling. But if you have a documented history of persistent and severe migraines that interfere with your ability to work, you may qualify in obtaining disability benefits for migraines.

There are general criteria that all claimants must meet to be found disabled regardless of condition.

You may be considered disabled if:

  • You have a physical or mental impairment that is “severe”;
  • You are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (essentially full time work) because of that impairment; and
  • Your impairment is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

You will need medical and vocational evidence to prove that you meet these requirements. Medical evidence will come from your medical records and medical providers, especially licensed physicians.  Try to see a doctor who specializes in treating migraines if you can.  Vocation evidence may come from employers, coworkers, friends, family members, and perhaps even a vocation expert who will evaluate your functional capacity (ability to work).

A condition is considered severe if it (1) interferes with basic work-related activities (abilities necessary for most jobs, like walking, standing, sitting, and understanding and following simple instructions, for example) or (2) impairs your activities of daily living (such as eating, bathing, and dressing).  Your doctor and your employer can provide evidence about the severity of your condition.  Your doctor can write a report listing your restrictions and your employer can write a letter or give testimony describing your difficulties at work.

Because migraines are not predictable, it can be difficult to prove they are expected to last at least one year at a level that is frequent enough to prevent you from working. You must seek medical treatment each time you experience a migraine or keep a journal of your signs and symptoms each time so that you can prove that your condition is ongoing and pervasive.

The more information you can give the SSA, the better your chance of qualifying for disability benefits.

For Help Obtaining Disability Benefits for Migraines

For help obtaining disability benefits for migraines, call the Hermann Law Group today at 914-286-3030. We will gather medical and vocational evidence to show the SSA that you are unable to work and that you qualify for disability benefits.