Can You Get Disability for Migraines?


Migraine headaches are neurologically based headaches that can coincide with additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can range in severity from mild to debilitating, and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, sometimes even longer.

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Occasional migraines may be nothing more than an inconvenience. Unfortunately, some people experience regular, severe migraine headaches and find it difficult to function on a daily basis. Often times they are able to do nothing more than stay in bed in a dark room for hours. Medications that treat migraines may not always be effective, and can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness.

Qualifying for Disability for Migraines

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at several factors in determining whether your migraines reach the level of a disability. The SSA will consider your age, level of education, and your past employment in addition to the limitations caused by your migraines to see whether there is other work you could learn to do. Generally, it is easier to get approved for disability if you are over the age of 50, have little education, and a history of unskilled work.

You need to prove to the SSA that your migraines affect your level of functioning to the point where you cannot perform basic work activities on a regular and continuing basis. This means any full time employment, not just your previous work.

For the SSA to determine that you are unable to work, you must experience significant limitations in things like concentrating, understanding instructions, dealing with others, lifting, walking, and standing. Also important is how often you might miss work due to your migraines. The SSA will also consider any other conditions you have that further limit your ability to work.

While the SSA will consider your reports as to the severity of your symptoms and their interference with your activities, you must have objective medical evidence. You will need medical records showing your doctor has diagnosed you with recurrent migraine headaches. Migraines can often be diagnosed based on the patient’s reporting of their symptoms and the presence of a family history of migraines. In addition, your doctor may have ordered additional tests, such as an MRI or CT scan to rule out other reasons for the headaches. Your doctor should note the frequency and severity of your headaches, any medication he or she has prescribed for you and the results, any other treatment prescribed, and records from any ER visits or hospital stays for your migraines. The SSA may ask your doctor to complete a report or questionnaire regarding your medical condition.

The SSA will also want to know what treatment you are receiving for your migraines. Treatment for migraines usually includes pain medications, anti-nausea medications, and sometimes, medications taken regularly to reduce or prevent migraines. Sometimes doctors will prescribe other drugs, such as beta-blockers or anti-depressants, which can also help migraine symptoms.

The SSA will want to know what treatments you have tried. An applicant who alleges disabling migraines but hasn’t tried several different medications will not be credible to the SSA. In addition, if treatment can improve you migraines, the SSA will want to know that you are complying with the doctor’s recommended treatment.

If you experience severe migraine headaches that interfere with your ability to work or have caused you to stop working, please contact us at 315-471-1664 to discuss whether you should file a claim for Social Security Disability.

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