Our office has often represented individuals pursuing disability based on headaches. Pursuing such a Social Security disability claim is difficult but can be won if the individual proves that their headaches are so severe, persistent and disabling that they remain unable to work. In this article, we outline five tips for getting approved for disability based on headaches.
- Treat with a Neurologist: First and foremost, we recommend that treatment take place with a specialist, which would be a neurologist, and that visits take place consistently so that the frequency, severity, location and duration can be properly documented.
- Ensure Your Neurologist Supports Your Claim: Do not apply for migraine disability without getting your doctor on board. Making sure your doctor is on board from the beginning will ultimately save you time and stress, even if you must delay your application to find a more supportive doctor.
- Educate the Evaluators on Migraines: Assume the person evaluating your claim knows nothing about migraine genetics, symptoms, duration or progression. Outline every symptom that you experience with a typical migraine attack at each of the potential phases: prodome, aura, headache, and postdrome. Most importantly, show how those symptoms impact your daily functioning and your ability to work.
- Follow the Neurologist’s Recommendations:
- a. Avoid Triggers: Neurologist’s often tell their patients to avoid headache triggers. Triggers can include certain types of foods, alcohol, highly caffeinated beverages and stress, and following one’s treatment providers’ recommendations with reference to avoiding certain triggers is very important (both personally and in terms of showing the Social Security Administration (SSA) that one remains disabled despite prescribed treatment).
- b. Comply with Medication: 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. Treatment for migraines usually includes pain medications, beta-blockers or anti-depressants, and anti-nausea medications.
- Keep a Headache Diary: Using a headache diary can be useful to show that your migraines are frequent and severe enough, even with treatment, to keep you from carrying out the tasks required to work. Be truthful and document everything – frequency, severity, treatment, and the level of impairment of your migraines.
Following these steps will ensure that your disability application includes all of the information necessary for an approval. However, do not be discouraged if your claim is initially denied. Most people who file are eventually approved for benefits as long as they are persistent. If in fact you or someone you care for are struggling with headaches to the point where your/their ability to work has been compromised, contact Ellis & Associates at 1-800-Mr. Ellis for advice as to whether Social Security disability benefits may be an appropriate resource to pursue.