Any migraine sufferer knows that a migraine is more than a headache. Migraines can be so painful that they become debilitating in just a short amount of time. And unlike normal headaches, these vicious attacks often come with their own set of unique symptoms, including:

  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting; and
  • Perceptual disturbances (also known as “aura”).

Migraines can last anywhere from a few minutes to many hours, and, because the pain can be so great, those who suffer from severe migraines often have little choice but to lie down and wait for the pain to pass. This means that, during a severe migraine, a sufferer cannot perform the necessary functions of their job.

Severe Migraines and Social Security Eligibility

While migraines can be severely debilitating, it is not easy to obtain Social Security disability benefits due to a migraine diagnosis. SSA has determined that migraines cannot be considered a “medically determinable impairment” solely on a diagnosis in the evidence or on a claimant’s reported symptoms. SSA requires that there must be clinical signs or laboratory findings to support a finding of migraine headaches.

Migraines are not a listed impairment. This means that in order for a claimant to qualify for disability because of migraines, the age, education and work experience of the claimant must also be considered. However, SSA has established by SSA-POMS DI 24505.015 that migraines may be found medically equivalent to 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P. App. 1 (the “Listings”) listing 11.03 (epilepsy, non-convulsive.)

Proving the Severity of Your Migraines

Another problem with obtaining Social Security disability benefits for migraines is that they are often difficult to prove. That being said, there are specific measures an applicant can take to display their ailment. Generally, an applicant seeking benefits for migraines must provide:

  • Doctor’s notes regarding the frequency and severity of the migraines (see below for more information);
  • Results of any tests that have been conducted to rule out other conditions;
  • A list of other medications and treatment methods tried, as well as their results; and
  • Records from any emergency room visits or other hospitalizations related to the applicant’s migraines.

Often doctors will keep what is called a “migraine journal” to document a patient’s symptoms. These journals generally document such things as:

  • Date and length of the migraine;
  • The severity of the pain;
  • Description of the symptoms;
  • Any possible triggers;
  • Medication taken by the patient and any relief it provided.

Having a migraine journal filled out by your doctor will help you prove your case for Social Security disability benefits.

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