Migraine Headaches

June 15, 2020 ---- Category: Types of VA Claims

What is a Migraine?

Migraine headaches, commonly referred to simply as migraines, are a specific type of headache known for their intensity and debilitating nature. Unlike common tension headaches, migraines are often characterized by a throbbing or pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. They can last for hours or even days and are frequently accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are thought to result from abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain. This condition is quite common, affecting millions of people worldwide. It’s more prevalent in women than in men and can be influenced by various factors, including genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. Migraines can severely impact the daily life of individuals, hindering their ability to perform routine tasks during an attack.

What are the symptoms of a Migraine?

Migraines are distinguished by specific symptoms that can vary in intensity and duration. The primary symptom is a severe headache, often described as a throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head. However, migraines are also accompanied by other significant symptoms, which may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to light (Photophobia)
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound (Phonophobia)
  • Changes in vision such as:
    • Scotoma (Blind spots)
    • Flashes of light
    • Tunnel vision
  • Sensory changes such as the feeling of pins and needles in the extremities

 Some people may experience a warning symptom known as an aura, which can include visual disturbances or other sensory changes that precede the headache. 

The combination of these symptoms often makes migraines more debilitating than regular headaches, significantly affecting the sufferer’s ability to function during an attack.

What is a Prostrating Attack?

A prostrating attack, in the context of migraines, refers to an intensely severe migraine episode that incapacitates the sufferer, often rendering them unable to maintain normal activity levels.

During a prostrating attack, the intensity of the headache and associated symptoms like nausea, light sensitivity, and sensory disturbances become so overwhelming that the individual is compelled to lie down in a dark, quiet room. This requirement for rest and minimal sensory input is crucial for mitigating the migraine’s effects and facilitating recovery. 

Prostrating attacks can vary in frequency, ranging from several times a year to multiple occurrences per week in severe cases. The debilitating nature of these attacks can lead to significant disruptions in personal and professional life, often necessitating time off work or school and affecting overall quality of life.

Are Migraines Compensated by Veteran Disability?

Migraines are recognized and compensated under Veteran Disability benefits, acknowledging the significant impact they can have on a veteran’s life. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acknowledges migraines as a disabling condition, especially when they are linked to a veteran’s service. Veterans suffering from migraines can receive compensation based on the severity and frequency of their symptoms. The VA uses a specific rating system to evaluate the degree of disability caused by migraines and determine the appropriate level of compensation. This rating considers the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks, including prostrating attacks, and their effect on the veteran’s ability to maintain gainful employment. It’s important for veterans suffering from migraines to provide detailed medical documentation and evidence of the connection between their service and the onset or exacerbation of their migraines when filing for disability compensation.

What is the VA Rating for a Migraine?

The VA rating for migraines is determined based on the frequency and severity of the migraine attacks and their impact on a veteran’s life, particularly their ability to work. The VA’s rating schedule for migraines is as follows:

With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability50
With characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over last several months30
With characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over last several months10
With less frequent attacks 0

These ratings reflect the extent to which migraines impair a veteran’s ability to function in a work environment. The higher the rating, the greater the perceived impact on the veteran’s employability and daily living.

What causes a Migraine?

The exact cause of migraines is not fully understood, but they are believed to be the result of complex interactions between genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Various triggers can initiate or exacerbate migraine attacks, and these triggers can vary greatly among individuals. Commonly identified triggers include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Migraines can be a secondary condition resulting from TBI, as brain injuries can alter nerve pathways and chemical balances in the brain.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): The stress and anxiety associated with PTSD can contribute to the onset or worsening of migraines.
  • Depression/Anxiety: Emotional stress and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are known to trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder: This disorder, which involves a focus on physical symptoms, can exacerbate migraine symptoms.
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Conditions: Issues with the jaw joint and muscles can lead to headaches and trigger migraines.
  • Sinusitis/Rhinitis/Asthma: These respiratory conditions can also be associated with migraine attacks.
  • Neck Strain/Radiculopathy: Physical strain or nerve compression in the neck area can trigger migraines.
  • Sleep Apnea: Disruptions in sleep patterns and the associated lack of oxygen can trigger migraines.
  • Tinnitus: The constant ringing or noise perception in the ears can be both a trigger and a symptom of migraines.

Understanding and managing these triggers can be a crucial part of migraine treatment and prevention.
If you are already service connected for the one of the above listed conditions and you suffer from migraine headaches, then it would be considered a secondary service connected disability. Fill out Disability Benefit Questionnaire (DBQ) form 21-0960C-8 to help your claim

How long does a Migraine last?

The duration of a migraine attack can vary significantly among individuals, but typically, a migraine can last anywhere from 4 hours to 72 hours if not treated effectively. The length of the attack can be influenced by several factors, including the individual’s response to treatment, the presence of triggers, and personal health conditions. Some people experience migraines that last for shorter periods, while others may suffer from more prolonged episodes. In some cases, especially without adequate treatment, migraines can persist for several days, causing substantial discomfort and disruption to daily activities. It’s essential for individuals who experience migraines to understand their patterns and triggers, as this knowledge can aid in managing and potentially reducing the duration of migraine episodes.

How do I get rid of a Migraine?

Treating a migraine effectively involves a combination of medication, lifestyle adjustments, and sometimes preventive strategies. The approach to treating migraines can vary based on the frequency, severity, and individual characteristics of the headache. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be effective for mild migraines. For more severe cases, prescription medications, such as triptans, are often used to alleviate symptoms. Preventive medications may also be prescribed for those who experience frequent or severe migraines. Apart from medication, identifying and avoiding migraine triggers is crucial. This may involve dietary changes, stress management techniques, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding specific environmental factors. In some cases, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, or relaxation techniques can also be beneficial. It’s important for individuals to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to their specific needs and migraine patterns.

How do I file a Disability Claim with the VA for a Migraine?

Filing a disability claim with the VA for migraines involves several steps. If you are already service-connected for a condition that is linked to your migraines, such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), PTSD, or another related disorder, your migraines may be considered a secondary service-connected disability. To support your claim, you should complete and submit the Disability Benefit Questionnaire (DBQ) form 21-0960C-8, which is specifically designed for migraine-related claims. This form will help document the severity and frequency of your migraines and their impact on your daily life. It’s important to provide thorough medical evidence and any relevant treatment records.

You Fought For Your Country, Let Us Fight for You.

If you have had your VA disability claim for migraines or related symptoms denied, reach out to Veterans Disability Aid for assistance in filing your appeal. Alan Watt is a VA-accredited claims agent and has extensive experience navigating the difficult and often confusing VA claims and appeals process. Visit our About Us page to learn more about the team at Veterans Disability Aid. You can also get ahold of the team directly by visiting our contact page.

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