10 Things You Should Know About Chronic Migraines and Applying for Social Security Disability

1. Focus on how your health issues prevent you from working. Social Security does not care how sick you are; rather, they need to know why and how you are prevented from working. Further, you must be unable to perform any work, not just the work you have been doing or have been educated or trained to perform.

2. Kill them with details.

3. Get your doctors on board. One of the biggest obstacles people face in the application process is care providers who do not respond to Social Security Administration inquiries. It is very important that your doctors cooperate with the process. I recommend talking to them early on in the application process to tell them you are applying and find out what you can do to make it easier for them to fulfill their role.

4. Make copies of everything and keep all relevant documents in a file in case you need them later. It’s not uncommon for things to get lost in the process.

5. Start collecting information. You should gather:

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors who have treated your medical condition.
  • Chart numbers and insurance numbers.
  • Dates you were seen by your doctors and dates you were treated.
  • Names of medications you are taking, the reason you are taking them and the doctor who prescribed them. (Your pharmacy can help you gather this information.)
  • Information about medical tests you have had. You will need to know where you were tested, the date of the test and who ordered the test.
  • Medical records.
  • The jobs you worked in the 15 years before you became disabled, the dates you started and ended your employment in those jobs and the tasks you performed in the positions.

6. Brainstorm your answers to the questions listed on the forms before you start filling them out. It’s just like writing an essay for school: Think about what you want to say before you start trying to write your answer. Make notes to yourself about anything you can think of that seems to relate to the question. Spending some time on your application can greatly improve the quality of details you’ll be able to provide over sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind in that one moment.

7. Ask people who know you well to review your answers and make suggestions of things you might have overlooked.

8. Comply with all deadlines. It can be hard when you’re sick enough to be applying for disability benefits, but it’s a vital part of the application process.

9. Realize the wait time you can expect depends on where you live. It’s not fair, but the backlog of applications varies by location. People in some places may wait many months or even years, while people in other places might wait just a couple of months for a decision on their applications.

10. Consider hiring a lawyer. It is possible to apply for and receive benefits without a lawyer’s assistance, but having help from someone who knows the process well is valuable.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (55)
  • DAA70
    6 days ago

    This is an excellent list and is exactly what I tell others to do. It is so important to send in all your (organized) medical records along with your application yourself & include the treatment/doctor list. Once you are approved, you will likely be reviewed every few years “to see if you are still disabled”. Send in the records along with your new ones again and take a copy with you if you get sent to doctor for a review exam!

  • Joanne
    2 months ago

    Last year, after being awarded disability going back to 2003, my primary care doctor decided out of the blue that I could do “some kind of modified work!!!!! My disability is based on fibromyalgia, chronic migraines and numerous other chronic medical problems. She had been filling out a short form for a private long term disability insurance plan I had. I had to fight it with every thing I had . It took me almost took me 6 weeks to get all my medical evedience together. However, the plan usually want this progress report filled out. I am waiting it to start again. Doctors like this should loose their medical license!!!!!

  • lisad424
    5 years ago

    I wonder if anyone knows this…I saw that someone said the number of times you go to the doctor make a difference in getting approved or denied. If I’m sick with a migraine and can’t go to work and can’t go to the doctor either. I take the Imitrex and Phenegran and go to bed. If that doesn’t work, I try regular pain meds and last course is urgent care for injections. I’m just wondering if not going to the doctor everytime I have a migraine will keep me from getting approved. I’ve had one on and off for the past three weeks, so that would be a lot of visits.

  • Donna Enyart Adkins
    5 years ago

    Can you still collect your pension and apply for disability? I had to retire because of migraines and other health reasons, RA, neuropathic pain, and back problems. Could not sit in a chair for more than 1/2 hour without loosing all the feeling in my legs, etc. Anyway, I have a pension from my job but I am disabled too.

  • azmigraine
    6 years ago

    So many years of migraines and then in early adulthood the fibro problem started too – didn’t always know they were connected except that when I have a migraine, my whole body knots up more than usual. I’m 58 now and still wake up with migraines a lot, even though I take a 10 mg Flexeril, 2 mg Klonopin and three melatonin before bed, and always wear my night guard. Falling asleep without the night guard guarantees a wakeup migraine. Perfumes are awful, even just walking past someone who is wearing too much perfume will jump start the “knife in my eye” as I have often put it. Sitting in traffic with car exhaust all around me just kills me. MSG does it bad; ever since I was really little when we would leave our favorite Chinese restaurtant, I would start getting a bad headache on the way home, sometimes throwing up. Driving through the Redwoods when I was little and our family would drive there, I remember I would have to cover my eyes if the sun created a strobe light effect which always gave me a bad headache. When I have a bad one I go to a quiet, dark room, but cannot lie flat as it pounds more when I do and I often throw up. I have to lie with my head above my heart level with an ice pack as I tend to get really feverish. I went to a migraine specialist once who said all this is classic, down to the fact that I don’t wear light colors and stripes, but always go for darker monocolor clothes, something I really had not noticed until she mentioned it. I have worked for 32 years in medical transcription, mainly because I can generally control the lighting in my specific area and in medical environments it’s a fairly general rule that perfume is not allowed. I have often considered SS disability, but have heard the horror stories and didn’t think I could go through all that just to be turned down.

  • maa0021
    2 weeks ago

    Get a lawyer. I asked a friend who’s husband was a tax attorney and he recommended a good SS person. She told me she wouldn’t take my case unless she would win. I had to get her all medical records and my doctors to fill out forms. She got me my social security disability check in 13 months.
    I know not every situation is the same. I do know that keeping a copy of everything is important, sending everything certified mail, and making sure all your doctors are on same page.
    Mine all didn’t know how long I had not been working and why. I am “what”. I tell you I have 25 migraines a month that last 9 hours with pre and post drones. How do you expect me to work?
    Getting SS is your job.

  • Smogzilla
    7 years ago

    I have had migraines since Dec 30 2002. I find that stress, my mother, fluorescent lighting, red wine, msg, a change in the weather, and before I had a hysterectomy, my period would trigger a severe migraine. I fought it for over a year working, and my boss was kind and patient with me. But I just can’t work in an office under deadlines and fluorescent lighting.

    I now take Depakote for prevention, and naratriptan for migraines themselves. I found that taking a minimum of 4 oz. of elderberry wine will stop the start of a migraine in its track.

    Also I went alone my first try for SSDI. My recommendation is to lawyer up right away with a disability lawyer. Tell them all what’s wrong with you. I told them of my migraines and what caused them, my back surgery, my legs swelling when I sit and other ailments. Worked like a charm.

    Good luck

  • moneypenni
    7 years ago

    My migraines are getting worse and my headaches are daily. I seem to miss more days than I get to have. I think my doctor has given up on treatment options. We’ve tried Botox nerve blocks hospitalization. What chance do I have at getting disability?

  • Lambchop
    6 years ago

    I think it’s best not to go it alone in applying for SSDI, just in case you are denied. Most representatives will take around 25% of your retroactive benefits once they are awarded.

    I wanted to offer help with getting Social Security disability for those who have yet to file or who do not know if they qualify.

    I recently signed with a firm of non-attorney representatives that is helping me go through the process. I know it is difficult to get SSDI for my illness, migraines, and I didn’t want to try filing by myself. I am well along in the process and they have been extremely helpful. Best of all, my stress level has been greatly reduced knowing I have put the majority of the burden on their shoulders.

    **Edited by Moderator**

  • Pam May Lamar
    7 years ago

    NO! I don’t need any frickin’ aspirin/tylenol…. I have a MIGRAINE!

  • Deborah Wisehart Wilton
    7 years ago

    What about moms who decided to be stay at home moms and now want to work but can’t do it because of daily migraines and fibromyalgia? For the last 10 yrs. I couldn’t hold a job down because of my health issues!

  • April Bower
    7 years ago

    I have applied for ssi,, twice, and denied twice,, they say I don’t have enough doctor visits, but that is because, I am not working, or have insurance to go to doctors,, is and I cant get a lawyer to take my case, I sure feel between a rock and a hard place.

  • cynajen
    5 years ago

    I have the exact same problem! It’s so frustrating! I can’t get to a doctor because I can’t afford it and the lack of documentation from doctors has prevented me from getting disability, but the lack of aid has prevented me from getting to the doctor to get documentation. It’s a catch-22. I can’t get aid unless I want to go deeper into debt (which I am in because i cannot work). I am SO terribly frustrated! And paying for a disability attorney is an impossibility. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I need help. I’m a 40-year-old that’s being taken care of by my parents who are themselves unhealthy. My future looks so awfully bleak.

  • Bear Peterson
    7 years ago

    #10 should be amended to “Get a lawyer, one who specializes in Social Security cases.” When going on my own I was denied twice, even with my doctor on board, with the lawyer, who really didn’t do any more, or say anything that I hadn’t said in the first 2 hearings, I was approved right away. Had I gotten a lawyer right away the case would most likely have been approved long before, rather than just after my home was foreclosed upon. As much as I think lawyers are the cause of most of what is wrong with this country, that is the one case they are a necessary evil.

  • Ritters McNalty
    7 years ago

    I was just diagnosed a couple months ago with migraines. I was bed ridden for a week before I finally went to the doctors. I get migraines every couple of days usually and if I’m migraine free for a week it’s a miracle. When I do get the migraines I am down and out, the light and sound don’t bother me too much but I would rather dark and low sound. I also have a constant ringing in my ears that I find has gotten a lot worse in the last couple months which also triggers my migraines. The doctors haven’t diagnosed the ringing but my father told me it sounded like tinitus and that there isn’t anything you can do about it. I am trying to find a job but I don’t know how I am going to work with these migraines and I don’t like taking medication…The doctor said he could prescribe me antidepressants but I don’t want them seeing as I am not depressed just ticked off that I can’t shake the migraines..

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Hi Ritters, you should know that antidepressants are actually frequently used as preventive medicines for Migraine. They work by acting on neurotransmitters in the brain. Yep, they were originally made to help with depression, but sometimes helping Migraine is a good side effect 🙂 We call using medicines like this “off label” use. There are anti-seizure meds as well as blood pressure meds and others that are used off label to help prevent Migraine. If it bothers you, try asking him label it “for Migraine prevention”. The only problem with that is that some insurance companies will cover it for depression but give patients problems if it is being used off-label for Migraine.

  • Michelle Young-Pifer
    8 years ago

    I have had them since I was 15 I am 30 now and I have been thinking about trying to get disability for mine as well I just don’t know where to begin! Any help would be appreciated!

  • Sherry Abbott-Brooks
    8 years ago

    MY MOM HAS THE LANDMARK CASE FOR MIGRAINE HEADACE IN CA..IT WAS AWFUL WATCHING HER PAIN THROUGH THE YEARS.AND I SUFFER FROM THEM AS WELL..IN ADDITION I HAVE FMS..DOn’t THINK I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN MY BENIFETS AS THEY CONSIDER MIGRAINES CURABLE NOW..IT TOOK ME THREE YEARS TO GET MY BENIFITS APPOVED..

  • Karen J Fisher
    7 years ago

    Isn’t Migraine Disease considered more treatable than curable?

  • Tristyn DeGruy
    8 years ago

    My mom and I are also migraine sufferers. I remember once, my mom was in bed for almost two weeks. Sick to her stomach, throwing up. It was horrible. Once I’ve had my kids they haven’t been so bad. Thank u Jesus. Hope u don’t have a migraine for a very long time 😉

  • Becky Davenport
    8 years ago

    after reading several posts..I just wanted to let people know/remind them that they can get an ADA (American disabilities act) accommodation for most jobs. You fill out a form from your employer, take it to your doctor to fill out also, which asks what your condition is, how you have used treatments and what accommodations will assist you at work. This helps make sure your employer will help you and also, that you don’t get fired from your job. I didn’t need it at first, but now am glad I have it because you never know who your supervisor might end up being, with switches in companies and what not. I found the MAGNUM website helpful in advocating for yourself. Check them out also. You can ask me questions also if you have more questions about that.

  • Terri Lannings Johnson
    8 years ago

    I am on Disability from Migraines. I got it real easy. I didn’t hire a lawyer at all. I did everything my self. All you need is the medical documents to back your story up. I listed every singe thing that hindered my life from the time I got up until I went to bed. It worked great. Good luck to you all. I am so glad I didn’t hire a lawyer cus they would never be able to explain my pain. The ones I talked to just acted like he didn’t care and didn’t believe me. You can do it yourself if you detail everything exactly how it says in the article.

  • Ipek Nielsen
    8 years ago

    Here’s a link to my LIVING WITH MIGRAINES FB SIGHT SUPPORT GROUP! PLEASE JOIN 🙂
    https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_367629295416&ap=1

  • Ipek Nielsen
    8 years ago

    BTW IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO JOIN MY MIGRAINE SUPPPORT GROUP PLEASE DO!

    https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_367629295416&ap=1

  • Ipek Nielsen
    8 years ago

    I have appllied twice but wa denied…Im from bay area, CA…they don’t consider migraines as a disability! NICE HA?

  • Jenn R
    8 years ago

    hate them…just had to go to urgent care for an injection yesterday. It’s so frustrating to never feel relief and feel like your life is no longer your own because you can’t function at ALL…. I take days off, sometimes multiple, and worry each time about my employer being frustrated with me missing work. Sometimes I simply am unable to even stand or think, can’t work like that. It helps to know that others are out there with this same issue. Sometimes I feel so isolated…..it’s crazy. My neurologist is great and we keep switching meds every few months. Next up on the agenda is botox shots as a preventitive. Anyone tried this?

  • Dawn Wills Wenzel
    7 years ago

    I get the botox shots for chronic migraines – they do help and most insurance cover them now. There are specific areas they give shots to treat Migraines – not the same as cosmetic. In my case they do the shots not only on the head but my neck and the muscle running from neck to top of shoulder. The shots usually wear off before I am due for the next round but I have multiple types of headaches besides Migraines – its been daily for years.

  • SueMichelle Meza
    7 years ago

    My daughter has the same issues I feel sooo helpless to help my daughter

  • Jenn R
    8 years ago

    robin, let me know what she finds out. Thanx

  • Terri Lannings Johnson
    8 years ago

    I get the injections for home. DOn’t have to go to the er for them. Get a prescription for them instead. Very easy to administer to your self.

  • Robin Gardner
    8 years ago

    hey my neighbor is about to go to Mayo Clinic to see if they can help her….she has exhausted all avenues from here to Charleston and is at the end of her rope…

  • Shoronda D. Henderson
    8 years ago

    I have been dealing with bad migraines headaches since I was 20 years old and I ‘m still dealing with them and I’m tried of feeling this way not able to focus like want to in life ugh just make me sick.

  • Laquinta SouthernQueen Blevins
    7 years ago

    I know what u going through.

  • Jennifer Bunardzya
    8 years ago

    Although it took me 4 years, a craniotomy and 2 remaining brain tumors…….I was just recently granted SSD.

  • Susan Ward
    8 years ago

    I HAVE A DAUGHTER AND MANY FRIENDS THAT SUFFER FROM THIS.I HOPE THEY WILL SEE THIS COPY AND IT FOR REFERENCE:)

  • Susan Ward
    8 years ago

    IT’S SM OR CAP…….NO INBETWEEN…………..LOL………….

  • RevDonald Worden
    8 years ago

    Susan Marie Ward, could you do me a favor, and not use the capital letters… it makes one think you are hollaring or screaming.

  • Susan Ward
    8 years ago

    THIS SITE ALWAYS HAS THE BEST AND UPDATED INFO. YOU SHOULD CHECK IT OUT…….

  • Susan Ward
    8 years ago

    IT NEVER HURTS TO TRY JENNIFER:)IF MINE CONTINUE TO GET WORSE I MAY HAVE TO GET A FMLA JUST TO COVER MY BAD DAYS.

  • Kris Kirk-Booth
    8 years ago

    I used to have severe migraines that would go on for DAYS. I had my very first when I was 9. They didn’t seem to get really bad until my mid 20’s. I would be incoherent at times to the point that I couldn’t even talk…and if I did… what came out of my mouth was not what I was trying to say. Vomiting… nausea… sound… the unbelievable pain…sometimes I thought that death would have been relief. I had a small child and there were times I would be in bed for a couple of days and couldn’t even take care of him. After trying almost every prescription available… a friend turned me on to an over the counter pain reliever. It’s the only thing that’s ever helped. Unfortunately I knew that I couldn’t continue going through a bottle of 24 about every 10 to 12 days. I had to make changes and figure out what was going to make this stop.

    As the years have gone by the have almost completely stopped. I think I could safely say in the last 5 years I’ve had maybe 3 that were severe. I have read that as women get older the changes in their body can effect and even limit the migraines. Don’t know if that’s true. I can remember thinking 20 years ago thought that I couldn’t WAIT to be in my 40’s. LOL :o) I don’t know if this will help anyone but here’s what I have found to be true. This is not medical advice nor am I healthcare professional. These are just the things that have worked for me personally. AGAIN… I AM NOT GIVING MEDICAL ADVICE OR SUGGESTING ANYONE DO THE THINGS I DO OR HAVE DONE!

    STAYING HYDRATED~ I have absolute proof in my own life that if I’m not drinking enough water… a migraine is eminent. REST~ I get plenty at night and if I feel tired… I take a nap. (I NEVER used to do that!) DIET~ I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what foods seemed to trigger them for me. It was pain staking but necessary. STRESS~ We all have it but I have learned over the years not to go to bed with it. This goes back to getting rest. I would undoubtedly wake up with migraine if I went to bed stressed and didn’t sleep well. TIME~ As I mentioned above I believe in my own case that time and age have contributed to my better well being. My mother also suffered them and as she got older they seemed to just dissipate as they have in my case. EARLY PREVENTION~ Anyone who suffers know the very first HINT of one coming on. The minute I feel it or even suspect it… I take my OTC pills and drink LOTS of water. If I can I will lay down for about 20 minutes. This works for me. I wish I had known all this in my 20’s and 30’s. Although I don’t know that it would have helped then? I truly suspect in my case most of my relief has come with time.

    I feel for anyone who even has a ‘headache’ because any type is miserable.

  • Laurie A Faust
    8 years ago

    oh…and the nasty MRI with the dye…and Cat scans…

  • Laurie A Faust
    8 years ago

    when people say “headache”…they have nooo idea! you lose days to these migraines…between non-stop puking, not being able to do anything…eating included…not being able to literally function…you are down and out! I cant even count how many days I had to leave my job early or call out due to these monster migraines..I call headbangers! And being given meds to help that made you tired or out of it! Who can work and drive under those! And then the MRI’s….the dr visits…gas for visits…all add up to more money, even with insurance….you are taking money away from your family every time! good luck to you all.

  • John Carter
    7 years ago

    I’ve heard of people having botox injections in their face or scalp that helps with that horribly sensitive thing about being touched on your head … seems to help some migraines anyway. Wonder if that would help Lana?

  • Marti Adley
    7 years ago

    Don’t I know it! I live in fear of what I will do if I get fired for my damn migraines…. and I am doing all I can to lessen the frequency of them…. diet, excercise, no alchohol, meditation….anything to try to prevent them. Then you have stress and environmental triggers that you have no control over. I do the best I can, but I can’t prevent them all. So now at work I live on what’s called a final and I could lose my job because of them. Heaven help me if i get the flu or any other bug that causes me to call out! Then your employer treats you like you are just calling out cause you don’t want to be there…. add more stress…..more migraines. It’s a vicious cycle. There are so many days I’ve gone and tried to hide the pain and the vomiting at work just to keep my job. Some migraines have lasted as much as 5 days long.We can’t call out just cuz for fun cuz we can’t afford to! What’s worse…add high blood pressure and that adds more stress and migraines……What’s a migrainer to do?

  • Lana Lavoie
    7 years ago

    Laurie, Simp Ly Gourdjus and Bear :

    I am normally a kind, considerate person, and very empathetic toward others, but I have to admit that after 43 years of worsening migraines, and the stigma, disbelief of others, and snide remarks and whispers when I miss work, family get- togethers, or have to leave early because my vision is gone (my Migraines, once they get to a 5 or 6/10. double and blur my vision so it is like wearing glasses with a thick coating of Vaseline on the lenses). This makes it impossible for me to work or drive or even watch TV. I just have to go into my darkened bedroom and prop myself in a sitting position (my scalp is exquisitely tender during a Migraine, and I use neckroll so nothing touches my head).

    Anyway, I have gotten to a place now where, if I could, I would actually wish exactly one Migraine on each person who says “It’s a headache – take an Aspirin and get over it!” Of course, I would happily provide them each an Aspirin – I’m not evil, just dead tired of being called lazy, over-dramatic, a faker, and all the other mean, vindictive things those people without a clue have said to, or about, me and my Migraineur friends over the years.

    Since June 2010, in addition to my “normal” 3-4 Migraines per week, I have started having really long intractible Migraines that don’t respond to any kind of treatment. My last 3 of these have each lasted 1-2 months without any letup and have prayed to just go to sleep and not wake up. I am now on the verge of losing my job and have been diagnosed with Major Clinical Depression as well – the fun never ends!

    All of you take care, and I wish you only pain-free days 🙂

  • Bear Peterson
    7 years ago

    Simp Ly Gourdjus I’m not a violent person, but any time I hear a “It’s just a headache” or “Just get over yourself” type comment I get a strong urge to do bodily harm to that person. So far I haven’t acted upon those urges, but if you read the headline “Migraine sufferer accused of stomping person’s head in over thoughtless comment” I may have snapped.

  • Simp Ly Gourdjus
    7 years ago

    you are sooo right!! and i sometime get….well, it’s “just a headache” “get over it”…….they haven’t a clue, and I wouldnt wish this migraine pain onto anyone.

  • Barbara Crisp
    8 years ago

    I have been in this situation since 2000. Still sick, still need the help and am very thankful I have it. Worried about my future too.

  • Diana-Lee author
    8 years ago

    Without knowing the ins and outs of your situation it’s hard to say whether you’d be eligible for unemployment or disability. However, I would recommend you look into FMLA leave. You can learn more about that here: http://migraine.com/blog/what-are-some-financial-options-for-people-with-migraines-who-are-unable-to-work/

    I hope this helps!

  • Cherie
    8 years ago

    Hello, My migraines come at least twice a month. I have been placed on warning because of my absences due to migraines. I have to go 2 more months without any absences or I go to the next level warning. I am wondering what happens if I get fired due to my migraines. Will I be able to get unemployment? Does having the migraines twice a month qualify me for disability? It doesn’t seem so to me. I am thinking if I get fired, I will have to explain this to my next perspective employer, and I don’t think anyone will want to hire me because of this.

    Thoughts?

  • Perez Joseph
    8 years ago

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my note.
    -Joe

  • Diana-Lee author
    8 years ago

    Hello! Thanks for your questions & comments. Filing for Social Security Disability is unfortunately very inexact. Anything that makes it more difficult for you to hold any kind of job is the kind of thing likely to help your case. So while something like diabetes (hey I’m a diabetic, too!) isn’t thought to interfere much with your ability to hold a job, something like depression can be a very different story.

    The important thing is to disclose all conditions and be very specific in describing the ways they limit your ability to hold a job of any kind.

    It didn’t take me nearly that long to get approved. Honestly, it probably only took 3-4 months for me to get my answer that I’d been approved. But I was very, very lucky and I live in a state with a low population and low backlog of SSDI cases.

    Wishing you lots of luck!

  • Perez Joseph
    8 years ago

    Thanks for the information. I just had my medical exam for Soc Sec Dis. last Sunday and came across your article today. I hope I gave them all the info they needed [wish I had read your article first]. Did you say it took you two years to get it approved? I’m 61 now and I will start pulling my early SS this coming October. Will that interfere with my Disability application? Also when I applied for disability I also included by cardio vascular disease (four stents over the last five years), severe sleep apnea, some back problems (stemming from an auto accident in high school), diabetes and some deepening depression. Do you think those additional issues will increase my chances of being approved? My current migraine situation is 24/7 and I’m on fentynal, percoset and loratabs for the pain. I’ve been under the care of a headache specialist (neurologist) for about three years now and he’s run out of potential interventions-except Botox (which I will be trying later this month). I can’t take any preventive medicines due to my heart issues. Do you think those additional issues will increase my chances of being approved? Suggestions?

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