Getting an accurate rating for headaches/migraines

According to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), headaches/migraines are listed as #9 in the top 10 most common veteran disability claims. The difference between different types of headaches, including migraines, is significant. You can brush up on the facts or learn about those differences with one of our previous posts on headaches and migraines here.

Recap:

One of the tricky things about getting an accurate rating for headaches/migraines is they are a condition that the medical professional most likely won’t “see” during your visit. Because of this, it is important to be very open and honest, prepared, and have data to most accurately communicate the severity, intensity, and effect these headaches are having on your daily life. 

Here is a reminder on how the VA rates for headaches:

VA rates migraine headaches under Neurological Condition and Convulsive Disorders, Diagnostic Code 8100.  Disability ratings range from 0 to 50 percent, based on the severity and frequency of the migraines:

    • 50% – with very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability
    • 30% – with characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average of once a month over the last several months
    • 10% – with characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in two months over the last several months
    • 0% – with less frequent attacks

Posturing means the migraines are severe enough that they require the veteran to lay down for an extended time period due to pain and weakness.

*Check out the VA’s Headaches Disability Benefits Questionnaire. 

Image from CHI Health

What is a headache log?

We’ve discussed how buddy letters can be crucial and tremendously helpful for disability claims. Another important piece of the puzzle for getting the most accurate rating for headaches/migraines when submitting a claim is having a headache log to share with the VA and a medical professional.

A headache log is a chronological record of all the headaches and symptoms you have experienced over a period of time. It is recommended to have a headache log showing three months of incidents if possible. This will provide a detailed breakdown and large amount of data for the VA and doctor or neurologist to consider, and will help by:

  • Providing clear evidence on how the headaches/migraines and symptoms are effecting your daily life
  • Giving your doctor information to guide them in determining the most accurate treatment plan
  • Showing the veteran and/or medical professional a pattern; being able to identify certain triggers for onset of headaches

Tips for creating a headache log

Whether you decide to use an Excel spreadsheet, handwritten document, calendar app, or existing template, the most important thing is to make sure your log stays up to date and contains the following information for each episode:

  1. The date and time the headache occurred
  2. How long it lasted (hours and/or minutes)
  3. Amount of time that the individual was posturing or incapacitated from pain or symptoms
  4. Pain level on a scale of 1-10
  5. If vomiting or nausea accompanied the episode
  6. Any medication taken
  7. What mitigation techniques were used (turning the lights off, lying down in a quiet room, etc)

The National Headache Foundation provides a free template here

Additional resources

  • Our consultants take the time to review your service-connected disabilities and work with you to determine if you’re eligible to receive our services. If not, we will give suggestions for a next step for you. This consultation is free! Check it all out at: https://bevetstrong.com/our-process/
  • The Apple Store has an app called Migraine Buddy that may be useful for tracking and linking what activities, external factors, diet choices, and more, may influence when headaches or migraines are onsetting. There is a free version of the app and a paid version that is a bit more extensive. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can check out the app here.
  • Find even more info on migraines here.

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