Can Migraines Be A Disability?

Migraine headaches can be the basis for a finding of entitlement to Disability Benefits.  In determining if your headaches are considered to be disabling the Social Security Administration will look at the severity and frequency of the headaches.

It is important that medical records contain a very detailed description of the typical headache symptoms, duration and severity.  It is also important that the frequency of the headaches be well documented.  As a general rule, severe headaches that are incapacitating and last more than two to three hours on an average of more than twice a month may allow for a finding of disability and entitlement to benefits. 

Migraine Headachesmigraines can be a disability

There has been a question posed for the criteria used for migraine headaches existing as a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI) and whether we can the use of guidance 11.3 – ‘altered awareness,’ how this is measured or whether migraine headaches  can be evaluated with POMS/SSR.

The general policy given states, that a MDI cannot be established solely on diagnosis or on a claimant’s reported symptoms. There must also be clinical signs or laboratory findings to support the finding. A diagnosis of migraine headaches requires a detailed description from a physician.

This diagnosis should also occur after other possible causes are ruled out. This same procedure is used to establish the existence of some mental disorders and other physical disorders.

Listing 11.3 may be the better option when trying to consider migraine headaches a MDI since POM/SSR guidance focuses on epilepsy/seizures. Listing 11.3 has components that are most relatable to migraine headaches:  the ability to document a detailed description of a typical headache event pattern, associated phenomena, occurring more frequently than once a week, alteration of awareness (condition not necessary so long as the claimant has an effect, one or more problems described), and significant interference with activity during the day (involving other problems that interfere with activity during the day.

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