Chronic migraine headaches can be severely debilitating for veterans. Many require the assistance of VA disability benefits to support themselves and their families. Yet, getting VA benefits for migraines is challenging.
An excellent way to secure VA benefits for migraine headaches is to connect this condition to another service-connected health issue—most commonly, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Learn more about the link between migraines and PTSD, VA ratings for migraines secondary to PTSD, and how to prepare a nexus letter to support your VA claim.
How Is PTSD Linked to Migraine Headaches?
Migraines can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s quality of life. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), around 36% of veterans deployed in Iraq for at least 12 months suffer from chronic migraine headaches compared to just 12% of the civilian population. PTSD affects approximately 10-29% of veterans, depending on the era in which they served. There is considerable overlap between the two conditions, with a notable percentage of veterans experiencing coexisting PTSD and chronic migraines.
The connection between PTSD and migraines is well-documented. Research suggests that the physiologic and psychological effects of PTSD can trigger or exacerbate migraine headaches. The increased stress levels associated with PTSD can lead to muscle tension and increased sensitivity to pain, both contributing to the onset and severity of migraines. Additionally, PTSD-related sleep disturbances and anxiety can further amplify the frequency and intensity of migraines in affected individuals.
A Migraine VA Rating Secondary To PTSD
When determining a migraine VA rating that is secondary to PTSD, the severity of the symptoms plays a crucial role. To rate severity, the VA assesses the impact of PTSD and migraines on the veteran’s daily life and ability to secure and maintain substantially gainful employment. For migraines secondary to PTSD, the two most common possible ratings are 30% and 50%.
A migraine VA rating of 30% for PTSD migraine headaches implies that the migraines cause moderate impairment in the veteran’s ability to function. This rating acknowledges the impact of migraines on the veteran’s daily life but does not significantly hinder their ability to work. On the other hand, a migraine VA rating of 50% for PTSD migraine headaches signifies severe impairment, making it difficult for the veteran to maintain regular employment and engage in daily activities. For the 50% rating, economic inadaptability should be present.
Getting a Nexus Letter for Migraine Secondary to PTSD
Proving that migraines are secondary to PTSD for VA disability often requires a nexus letter. A nexus letter is a document from a medical professional that connects the veteran’s migraines to their PTSD. The letter should explain how the two conditions intersect and provide supporting evidence, such as medical records, research data, and diagnostic tests.
So, how does one obtain a nexus letter for migraines secondary to PTSD? The first step is to consult with an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer familiar with both conditions. They will put you in touch with a VA-qualified medical expert versed in preparing nexus letters for VA claims and appeals, including psychiatrists, neurologists, or other healthcare professionals with relevant expertise. Once the healthcare provider has a comprehensive understanding of your condition, they can draft a nexus letter that clearly outlines the link between the two.
Understanding the prevalence of these conditions and the link between PTSD and migraines is helpful in preparing your claim. Before submitting a VA claim for migraines, veterans should consult with a veterans’ disability lawyer to get help gathering evidence, obtaining a nexus letter, and preparing the claim. If you have been denied a VA claim for migraine secondary to PTSD, a veterans disability lawyer can help you successfully appeal the VA’s decision.