Migraine and Disability
Did you know…
- Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy, and asthma…COMBINED
- Migraine causes 113 million lost work days each year in the U.S.
- During an attack, Migraine is as disabling as quadriplegia
- The World Health Organization lists Migraine as the 6th most disabling health condition worldwide
Yet it is still very difficult for patients with migraine to successfully apply for and receive disability benefits from both private long-term disability insurance and Social Security. Migraine has a public image problem that contributes to this challenge. Another, more practical problem is that migraine disability claims are subjective — based largely on the applicant’s own description of symptoms. Without corroborating evidence from doctors, employers, therapists, friends, and family members, the claim of disability due to migraine is likely to be rejected.
If you are thinking about submitting a disability claim due to migraine, here are a few things to think about before you get started.
Request copies of ALL of your medical records. Every office visit, ER visit, hospital stay, and even your pharmacy records are critical evidence that will impact the outcome of your claim. You have a right to copies of your records. Before you ever submit a claim for disability benefits, you need to know what is in those records. I’ve known patients who were shocked when those records were entered into evidence because the doctor’s remarks were not supportive of their claim. Without doctors who believe you, you will have a much more difficult time trying to prove your claim.
Side Effects Matter
The side effects of treatments are part of your overall disability picture. Excessive fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, etc. may be prices you are willing to pay for relief from a migraine attack, but they are taken into consideration. If medicine prevents your attacks but makes you too sleepy to safely perform your job duties, that’s an important thing to point out in your application.
At some point, you will be asked to provide contact information for someone who knows you well and can accurately speak to the effects of migraine on your life. That person will be required to complete an extensive questionnaire similar to the one you complete. That other person’s report carries a lot of weight because it validates your claim. In most cases, you are not permitted to assist them in completion of the form, nor can you review it once it is complete, so choose wisely. Choose someone close to you who truly understands the impact of migraine on your life.
It’s not just about a job.
While the ultimate question is whether or not your symptoms prevent you from working ANY job, migraine’s impact on your hobbies, social life, and ability to care for yourself and others does count. Start making a list of all the ways that migraine affects you and your loved ones.
Keep a log
If you haven’t done so yet, start keeping a log of every single attack and its impact on your life. Did you miss work? Were you late to work? Did your performance at work suffer and how? Could you function to care for yourself or others after work had ended? What do you think triggered the attack? Was it something in the work environment? Was it avoidable? Did you take medicine? What were the side effects of that medicine? The application does not ask for this information, but including it can bolster your claim by serving as concrete evidence of your disability.
Getting fired isn’t always a bad thing.
If you have an employment record full of reprimands, discipline, or firings due to they symptoms of migraine, this can only help to support your claim. If you can prove that no one wants to hire you because of your symptoms, that’s good news. A failure to remain employed despite an employers willingness to make many accommodations supports a disability claim.
It doesn’t have to be forever.
Migraine symptoms may worsen or improve for no apparent reason. Just because you cannot work for the foreseeable future doesn’t mean that it lasts forever. You don’t have to be permanently disabled to receive disability benefits. You just have to prove that your disability is projected to last not less than 12 months. If you are approved and your condition improves over time, there are special programs to help you re-enter the workforce. If that attempt fails, you are often able to return to a disability status without having to reapply.
You can learn more about the disability application process at https://www.ssa.gov/disability/
This article is part of the July 2016 Ultimate Blog Challenge