Many veterans develop migraine headaches as a result of their service. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) often result in migraine headaches. These headaches can be very debilitating.
A veteran must show that their particular disability is the result of their military service in order to qualify for VA disability benefits. But that is not the end of the road. Even after receiving service connection for a disability, VA needs to rate the condition properly.
In this article, I will discuss the 50 percent rating for migraine headaches. This rating is the highest rating allowed under the diagnostic code section for migraine headaches. No matter how bad your headaches are or how frequent they are, you cannot receive more than a 50% rating.
If you are not familiar with how VA rates migraine headaches generally, I would suggest that you first read my article about a 30 percent migraine headache rating. That article discusses how VA uses its diagnostic codes to rate different medical conditions.
In order to qualify for a 50 percent rating, VA says that you must have, “with very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.” Now, I know that is a mouthful. To understand what this means, we need to break down several different terms:
- Very frequent,
- Completely prostrating
- Productive of severe economic inadaptability
What does “very frequent” mean?
To define this term, we can look at some of the other migraine headache ratings. At the 30 percent level, VA says that headaches need to average once a month over the last several months. At the 10 percent level, they average once every two months over the last several months.
We know VA will likely require more than the average of once a month at the 50% level. You may need to show two or three headaches a month to meet the “very frequent” requirement at the 50% level.
What about “completely prostrating”?
Prostrating means lying down. In layman’s terms, this type of headache puts you in the bed or on the couch.
Many veterans we talk to are in that situation. Their headaches are so severe that they just have to go to bed and sleep or rest when it comes on.
You can also compare the difference in the language between the 30% and 50% level. At 30%, the headache does not have to be “completely” prostrating. But, at the 50% level, they add the word “completely”. So, VA might rule you out at the 50% level if you are able to sit up or stand up as opposed to having to lie down.
What about “prolonged”?
“Prolonged” has to do with the length of the headaches. They cannot just be temporary. But, how long do they have to be?
Also, does the severity of the headache affect the length requirement? If you get a terrible migraine that last for 45 minutes, would that qualify as a “prolonged” attack.
Quite simply, there are a number of questions with the use of “prolonged”. You might argue that a headache which you had for 4 hours which was minor most of the time but completely prostrating for about 15 or 30 minutes qualified as a “completely prostrating and prolonged attack”.
Severe economic inadaptability seems like fancy language which means that it affects your ability to work. Having severe headaches which require you to lie down 2 to 3 times a month can certainly do that.
If you fall in this category, your headaches will cause you to miss multiple days of work a month (unless they just happen to fall on weekends or holidays). Missing that much work will likely interfere with your work productivity.
It will also cause you to use up all of your vacation or PTO time. At that point, you will likely run into problems with your employer. They may let you go or you may simply be unable to continue working.
Can I get TDIU benefits if I have a 50% migraine headache rating?
Because the 50% migraine headache rating level has “severe economic inadaptability” built into it, I always think it is a good idea to consider whether you could qualify for TDIU if you have a 50% migraine headache rating from VA. The whole focus of TDIU is whether your VA disabilities prevent you from working.
Qualifying for TDIU will get you to the 100% level which will likely provide a large increase in your VA benefits. So, if you are at the 50% level, filing for TDIU is certainly something you should consider.