I regularly counsel clients who suffer from migraine headaches. While migraines are a common problem, they can be debilitating and make someone unable to sustain a work schedule. An individual in this situation should be considered disabled. However, the Social Security Administration has strict criteria for what needs to be medically documented before someone can be considered disabled on this basis.
3 Tips for Getting Social Security Benefits for Migraines
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 19-4p provides guidance to a judge who is considering a disability case involving migraine headaches. This SSR makes it clear that migraines are not just bad headaches. They involve throbbing and pulsating pain in the vascular system. A migraine with aura involves visual and sensory symptoms. A migraine without aura can still be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Social Security has “listings” for various impairments. These are medical criteria which, if satisfied, create a presumption that someone is disabled. There is no listing for migraine headaches, but this SSR directs judges to consider the listing for epilepsy in a migraine case, as someone with severe migraines can exhibit signs and limitations similar to those exhibited by someone with epilepsy. In my experience, however, a judge’s decision is going to come down to whether or not the judge thinks that someone can work. Here are some tips on proving to a judge that your migraines make you unable to work...
Keep All Appointments for Tests and Examinations
Migraines headaches are considered a primary headache disorder that can be validly diagnosed only after doctors rule out other conditions which could be causing the headaches. Therefore, someone seeking disability for migraines should be sure and complete all tests and examinations recommended by their doctors so they can rule out various potential causes of the migraines. That way, the doctors can not only make sure that something potentially life-threatening isn’t causing the migraine headaches, they can also make the valid diagnosis required by Social Security.
Go to the Emergency Room or See Your Doctor When You Have a Migraine
Don’t delay in seeking treatment when you are experiencing a migraine. Getting treatment during an episode can help you get the care you need. Also, doctors will record their observations in your medical record, which can strengthen your disability case.
If your medical file does not contain a record of a doctor observing you having a migraine headache, a skeptical judge may find you less than totally credible. This may be unfair, but it is consistent with SSR 19-4p. Oftentimes, the hardest workers are amongst the most reluctant to seek medical treatment. Don’t let this reluctance prevent you from getting the disability benefits you earned.
Make Your Own Record of Your Migraines and Responses to Treatment
If you are suffering from migraines, consider keeping a headache journal. This can help your doctor treat you and could also be important evidence in your disability case. Doctors have long been prescribing what they call abortive medications that can be taken to stop a migraine when someone feels one starting. Also, Botox is now being used more frequently to stop migraines from even starting:
Our Social Security Lawyers Can Improve Your Chances of Getting Benefits
If doctors determine that oral medications or Botox are appropriate for treating your migraine headaches, you can document your response to these treatments. Unfortunately, even these treatments do not always reduce the frequency of migraine headaches to the point at which someone is capable of returning to work. If you find yourself in this situation, the Social Security lawyers at Keller & Keller can help you obtain disability benefits.