Can You Receive Disability Benefits If You Have Migraine Disease?

Question: Can I really qualify for disability benefits for migraines?

In the US there are certain health conditions that make one automatically qualified for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration has a manual called the Blue Book that lists all the physical and mental impairments that automatically qualify someone for disability benefits.

Unfortunately, migraine is not one of these conditions since it can be completely different in every person all the way from a couple attacks a year to daily migraine. Chronic migraine and episodic migraine are considered different spectrums of migraine disease rather than their own individual conditions. For conditions like migraine you must file a detailed, lengthy application and have your situation reviewed on a case-by-case basis. This does not mean that you cannot receive disability benefits. It simply means the process is harder, more complicated and takes longer.

First Social Security will make an initial determination of the non-medical aspects of your claim to determine your eligibility. Either you must have a certain number of work credits, which means you must have worked a certain length of time within the past few years to qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance program, or your assets must be low enough to qualify for the Supplemental Security Income program. Otherwise Social Security won’t even get to the question of whether your health condition is bad enough to warrant awarding you benefits.

Next Social Security will look at the evidence you and your doctors provide to determine whether or not your condition limits your functioning to the extent that it is impossible for you to work at any kind of job. They will look at the impact of migraine disease and any comorbid conditions on your ability to carry out day to day, routine tasks and work to make this determination.

Social Security may make a positive decision based on your initial application or you may need to appeal their decision multiple times to try to be awarded disability benefits.

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22 comments on “Can You Receive Disability Benefits If You Have Migraine Disease?

  1. Bonnie Ann Joyce says:

    My daughter is in the process now. She has only been able to work six months in the past four years. She got temporary disability in 2009 when her 53 day migraine kept her at home unable to move. Ever since then she has been denied twice and is awaiting a hearing. In the denial they said she should be able to work in quiet darkened environment. She is unable to move 5 days a week in excruciating pain. It is so frustrating. She is living at home at age 37 and we are her caregivers and paying all of her bills. All of our savings is gone and we don’t know how we are going to get from month to month. I am also a chronic migraine sufferer and cannot work. The process is debilitating in itself. After seeing a physician ordered by SSA, we are especially discouraged. He actually said that she had headaches because she is in bed every day and that she will never get better because she is fat. Unbelievable. This man is paid by the govt to give a report… what is the likelihood that he would report in favor of a person he examines?

  2. David Pickett says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles. We went through the SSD process a couple of years ago, and a good lawyer made all the difference in the world for us. The state of PA limits the amount they charge, and it was all covered under the retroactive payments that accumulated between when we filed and finally won the case. Prayers and blessings to you all for a good outcome.

  3. Jennifer Champy says:

    Oh Bonnie! I am so so sorry!!!! I am so sorry! How dare they! I am praying!!!!

  4. Maria C. PantanoBourlotos says:

    Yes, Thank the Lord, By it self I’m told no, other “health conditions” with lots of proof, Dr’s etc you have more of a chance. It’s lots of paperwork & a very tough haul, time, effort & prayers.99.9% you don’t get approved on the 1st try but keep on plugging away. Good Luck To All, It Can Done!

  5. Donna Parsons says:

    How do you document if you can’t afford to go to the doctor? My son did go the N.P. and was referred to a neurologist and was put on medication then sent for an MRI to make sure he didn’t have an aneurysm then before he could get back to him for the his evaluation of the results he had one of his horrible attacks (after the one he had in the bathroom at the hospital the day of his MRI with the nurse at the door begging me to get him around to the ER with him adamantly opposed to going that hospital’s ER saying all they would do was give him a shot and treat him like a “druggie” while he was trying to find out what was causing them -the same day his grandmother had hip replacement surgery) and was trying to get more of the “as-needed” medication with them saying he’d already had the limit he was supposed to have and basically accusing him of being a “druggie” as well besides having to talk to him directly, since he had not put me on as a power of attorney for them to talk to me, which they really didn’t want to do with him in the middle of one of those attacks but with all these HIPPA laws what were they supposed to do so I went down there and sure enough he didn’t want to talk to them; now I have a question in the middle of this; how do you all handle – act/talk when you’re in the middle of one of these? Now I have a friend who has them as well and I know she just goes to bed, which he normally does as well (when he’s not having the nausea) but this time he was trying to get the medication, which is why he was even still up for them to even hear him and since he was he doesn’t talk too well when he’s having them (not excusing him, just the way it is) but he wasn’t actually talking to them or even about them just talking about not wanting to talk to them just wanting the meds but the nurse put the doctor on with the idea that he was so he was upset; he did give him the more meds but then said he wouldn’t see him anymore, not even to give him the evaluation of his MRI, so that left us not even knowing if he had an aneurysm or not. Now I do know that an aneurysm can make you act like that and my grandfather died in the hospital from a burst aneurysm in the brain, so seems the doctor would have some responsiblity there, wouldn’t he? At least I understood he couldn’t just do that, could he? He just said if he had a problem if he wanted to go to the ER at his hospital, he would see him there.

  6. Diane Woodson says:

    I want to thank you for this information.

  7. Kristi Sprague says:

    For Heidi…I had quit teaching and was a stay-at-home mom when the migraines developed. My stress increased around my household responsibilities and not connecting with my young children in the same ways.

  8. Kathy Jo Horton Bishop says:

    I was denied twice then got my hearing…..documentation of your issues helps……best of luck to those of you who like me cannot hold down a job, much less function due to migraines….

  9. I work in the Disability Community and folks only knew me in this job for 10 months before I received my head injury/chronic migraines. I worked as a USAF member for 11 years, then for a University for 11 years – so no SSDI for me. It is tragic how many people think we are faking until they witness an attack hit. When they do, I can no longer think, hear, talk coherently, or really take care of myself. It is debilitating, and I am reaching the end of my rope.

  10. Pam Ershler Gladden says:

    There’s a step between getting denied benefits and going through the appeal process. If you get denied you have 60 days to ask for a “reconsideration”. I was denied 5 months after I applied. I asked for a reconsideration and was approved 30 days later.

  11. Penni Friess says:

    I’m just starting the disability process but mine is through pers. I just hope they honor my claim as my daily chronic migraines are “killing me”

  12. Kristi Sprague says:

    I developed Chronic Daily Intractable migraines following routine surgery and have had them for 8 years. After 3 years of a variety of therapies and docs, I applied for SSDI and was granted the benefit within 6 months. I believe that I had very few hassles because my physicians documented so well and because I had given so many treatments a go. My best to all who are in pain and need help. Apply for SSDI on line for starters. That part is a cake walk. Best~Kristi, Madison, WI.

  13. Did it stop, reduce the number of migraines – not having the stress at work? Stress and Beer are the only two triggers I can find for myself. Otherwise, they are just chronic pain, get up go to work, go home, go to bed. Friendships, marriages, family relationships are all strained because I don’t have the ability to do things outside of work.

  14. Teri Robert says:

    Heidi von Gemmingen-Frost, I’m sorry things are so rough for you. Been there too. I used to think stress was my biggest trigger until someone talked me into keeping a very detailed diary during stressful times. Amazingly, I discovered that there were things I was doing or not doing that turned out to be my triggers. Better yet, they’re things I can mostly avoid — skipping meals or eating late, staying up too late or otherwise messing up my sleep schedule, not drinking enough and getting dehydrated, and crying. Once I realized what was going on and to watch for these things during stressful times, I’ve been saved many a Migraine during stressful times. This may not be the case for you, but I thought I’d pass it along in case it could help you.

  15. Teri Robert – that is a good idea. I have done all of those things in the past, but that shouldn’t stop me from doing them again! I think I usually fall off the wagon when the chronic migraines kick up again. Right now, you are right, I’m not eating regularly, but that is because I’m so nauseated…but with your reminder, I’ll start trying again. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Teri Robert says:

    Heidi von Gemmingen-Frost, you’re very welcome. Have you talked with your doctor about the nausea to see if he or she can help out with that? I’ve also used peppermint tea to help with nausea.

  17. Teri Robert, you are so good to me! Yes, I have, I have even gone to a GI specialist, they can’t find anything. I just figured it was the migraine. I do have nausea meds, but I don’t use them for all of it for a variety of reasons. I use to love peppermint/mint tea and lemon teas before with mixed results. I swear I think the migraine gets smarter and adapts to the tricks I use. 😛
    I think it’s time to try them again (like the ones you are mentioning) – it has been awhile. Thanks for the advice.

  18. Teri Robert says:

    Heidi von Gemmingen-Frost, we’re all in this together. Often, the nausea of a Migraine is worse for me than the headache. Ack! Peppermint tea, gingeral made with real ginger as opposed to artificial flavors, and – thankfully – phenergan are my best friends when I have a Migraine. I also make my own peppermint “smelling salts” with peppermint essential oil. Just holding the bottle where I can smell it often helps. You’re always welcome for anything I can do to help or if you just need someone to talk with. <3

  19. Praise the Lord my disability claim was accepted, however, I have a bunch of other health issues also so I’m not sure if my chronic migraines were even a factor or not. they are the main reason I was let go at my job though, because of excessive absences. then after I was let go and started receiving disability, my migraines got even worse. I went from maybe 2 or 3 a month, to every other day for almost a year. it was so miserable, but I kept praising God because had my claim not been accepted, I would be homeless and suffering from migraines. I think everyone who has them should be approved for ss disability. what are people suppose to do? it’s so crazy! but I hope people keep trying, even if they’ve been denied once, don’t give up! I continue to pray for all of us who suffer from migraines! :0)

  20. Diane Woodson says:

    Laura Hag what does your reply mean exactly”

  21. I developed Chronic migraines in 2003. I was in the hospital at least 3 x a month because of the migraines and applied for disability. I was granted benifits without any problems. I went 4 years with very few migraine attacks and was working twards going back to work full time. All of sudden my migraines started and I had one that lasted for over a month with little relief. I finally found a specialist that I am working with and we are starting to make some prorgress on getting my migraines back under control. Without the Disablitly benifits I would be pennyless and my children and I would be on the streets with a migraine. I thank god every day for my benifits. So all I can say is just keep trying and make sure your Drs fill out all the forms.

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