What Options Are Available When Migraine Makes You Unable to Work?
Last updated: April 2023
There are about 30 million migraine patients in the United States, and our work situations are impacted in vastly different ways by migraine disease. Most of us have migraines every once in a while and rarely, if ever, have to miss work. Some of us have more frequent migraine attacks and have to miss quite a lot of work when we have them. Others (like me) find it impossible to work because our migraines are so overwhelming. But we all have job-related concerns and need to know what our options are when migraines interfere with our employment.
Does your employer offer sick leave?
If you're lucky, your employer offers sick leave. Some employers are legally required to, but many are not. Some are generous enough to offer sick leave anyway. You can usually find out more about how this leave works in the employee handbook or by asking your boss, supervisor, or human resources specialist for written details. If you have sick leave, carefully follow the rules if you need to use it to deal with a migraine.
What is the Family & Medical Leave Act?
The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides some employees with the opportunity to take leave when their health or that of a family member requires them to be away from work. In many ways, FMLA overlaps with traditional sick leave. If the employee has paid leave to use (such as sick leave or vacation), they can get paid while taking this leave. If they don't, they will not be paid while taking FMLA leave but cannot be fired for taking advantage of their rights under the law. This law only applies to workplaces with a minimum number of employees, so people who work for small businesses are less likely to be protected by it.
Can you use short- or long-term disability?
Some employers, especially larger ones, have short or long-term disability programs. If you think this type of program might fit your situation, look for information in your employee handbook or make an appointment to talk with the human resources department in your company. Human resources specialists are often very knowledgeable and can explain your options in detail so you and your family can come to an educated decision about what is right for your situation.
Can you use private disability insurance?
In addition to employer-based disability programs, there are also private disability insurance providers who sell policies to individuals. If you've been paying for one of these policies, especially one that requires only an inability to work in your own field rather than any field, your odds of getting help from it are good. On average, a private disability insurance policy pays 50 to 70% of your income while you are unable to work. The amount you receive under this type of policy may be adjusted if you are receiving certain government benefits.
Should you file for Social Security Disability?
If you find yourself completely unable to work for an extended period, it's time to consider filing for Social Security Disability benefits. It is an intimidating process, no doubt. When you're feeling unhealthy enough to be completely unable to work, the idea of taking on this kind of challenge is daunting. Becoming informed about the requirements can help you get started on the right foot and make the strongest possible case for being awarded benefits. Hiring a lawyer is also something to consider. Having a lawyer on your side who is knowledgeable about the process and requirements can be invaluable and may help you avoid the seemingly endless appeals process so many applicants have to deal with.
If you have questions about how these programs differ or where to find more information, please leave a comment.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?