Chronic migraines rank among the top 20 causes of disability conditions, and nearly 14 million people experience them almost daily - but can you get Social Security disability for them? Maybe. It's certainly difficult, but not impossible. Here's what you should know (and do) to help get your disability claim approved:
Keep track of treatments.
You can't diagnose migraines through blood work, X-rays, and other lab tests. Because of that, a lot of the evidence used to decide your case is actually "self-reported" - or coming directly from you. That makes your credibility very important when it comes to any evaluation done by the Social Security's claims examiner or the Administrative Law Judge who is deciding your case.
One way that you establish your credibility is by actively seeking treatment and following your doctor's instructions. The logic from Social Security's perspective is that people who are genuinely sick or in pain don't want to stay that way - which means that they'll try just about any treatment available if it might help.
Follow your doctor's instructions as closely as possible and keep a record of any therapy, biofeedback, and medications you've tried to control your symptoms. Also keep a record of non-conventional attempts at controlling your migraines through things like massage, chiropractic care, or acupuncture.
Keep a migraine diary.
Migraine diaries are recommended by doctors because they can help a patient identify things that trigger the attacks - like chocolate, weather changes, or too little sleep. They're also handy because they add credibility to your claim over time and can be used to evaluate the severity of your condition. Include the following information in your migraine diary:
- the date and time the migraine started and ended
- the severity level of the migraine from 1 to 10 (with 1 being minor and 10 being intolerable)
- any additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity, or visual hallucinations (also known as "auras")
- any medications you took to combat the migraine or its symptoms
- any non-medical steps you took to control the migraine, such as sleeping or using ice packs
Keep a record of side-effects.
Sometimes the migraines alone aren't debilitating enough to qualify you for disability - but the combined effects of the migraines and the side effects of your medication are.
Many common migraine drugs have serious side-effects that can affect your ability to function normally or keep a job. Triptans, a class of medication that treats acute migraine attacks, can alleviate the pain of the migraine but leave you feeling dizzy, weak, or too drowsy to work. Another commonly used drug, gabapentin, can leave patients with blurred vision and shaking hands, among other things.
Social Security takes the problems caused by your medications into account when deciding your disability claim. The agency recognizes that sometimes medications can help the primary disease or disorder but still leave you unable to actually perform your job duties.
If you need help with your disability claim, contact an attorney in your area that specializes in Social Security issues like Michael P Boyle.