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Migraine and Headache VA Claims

 

Veterans experiencing chronic headaches should consider all underlying and contributing factors, especially those that could be linked to their service. Documentation from your medical providers that establishes a connection between the veteran’s military service and their chronic condition is crucial. This can include clinical evaluations, treatment records, and diagnostic tests, which collectively help substantiate claims for VA benefits. 

To establish a service connection for headaches, a veteran must generally provide a current diagnosis, evidence of an in-service event that could have caused the headaches, and a medical nexus linking the headaches to service. Alternatively, headaches can be service-connected as a secondary condition to an existing service-connected disability, requiring a current diagnosis, a nexus to the primary condition, and evidence that the primary condition causes or aggravates the headaches. Presumptive service connection might apply for Gulf War veterans or those exposed to toxic substances like burn pits or contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, provided the headaches meet specific criteria.

When filing a claim, including service medical records, post-service medical records, and a medical nexus opinion is essential. The VA rates headaches under Diagnostic Code 8100, with ratings based on the frequency and severity of the attacks. To strengthen a claim, veterans should document the impact of headaches on daily life and work. For more tailored advice, provide details about the veteran’s service history, current medical conditions, and any exposure to environmental hazards during service.

Veterans should seek the assistance of an Accredited VA Disability Advocate because we provide expert guidance through the complex VA claims process, ensuring all necessary evidence is gathered and presented effectively. Our advocates are trained to identify and link service-related conditions, increasing the likelihood of a successful claim. Additionally, we offer personalized support and representation, helping veterans navigate appeals and secure the benefits they deserve.

Types of Headaches: 

Headaches can manifest with various symptoms, depending on the type of headache and its underlying causes. Here are common symptoms associated with different types of headaches: 

 

Tension Headaches 

  • Dull, aching pain: Often described as a tight band around the forehead or a weight on top of the head. 

  • Tenderness: Scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles may feel tender or tight. 

  • Pressure: Sensation of pressure across the forehead or on the sides and back of the head. 

 

Migraines 

  • Pulsating or throbbing pain: Usually on one side of the head, but can affect both sides. 

  • Sensitivity to light and sound: Often retreat to a dark, quiet room. 

  • Nausea and vomiting: Common digestive symptoms that accompany the pain. 

  • Aura: Visual disturbances like flashes of light, blind spots, or other vision changes; aura may occur before the headache pain. 

  • Dizziness: Sometimes accompanied by lightheadedness or vertigo. 

 

Cluster Headaches 

  • Intense piercing pain: Typically around one eye or one side of the head. 

  • Restlessness: Unlike migraines, it may involve pacing or agitation. 

  • Eye symptoms: Redness, swelling, or watering of the eye on the affected side; drooping eyelid or constriction of the pupil. 

  • Nasal congestion or runny nose: These symptoms occur on the same side as the headache. 

 

Sinus Headaches 

  • Pressure and pain: Around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead. 

  • Nasal discharge: Green or yellow mucus, which is a sign of sinus infection. 

  • Congestion: Feeling of fullness in the ears and face. 

  • Fever: Often accompanies sinus infections. 

 

Rebound Headaches 

  • Dull, ongoing pain: Often worsens in the morning. 

  • Frequent use of pain medications, Especially headache medicine taken more than two or three times a week. 

  • Restlessness and insomnia: Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. 

 

Other General Symptoms 

  • Cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating or memory problems. 

  • Emotional effects: Irritability or mood changes related to the pain or its impact on daily life. 

  • Physical activity: In some headaches, symptoms worsen with physical activity, while in others, like tension headaches, there might be no change. 

Headaches Secondaries
Headache Type
VA Disability Advocate Headach Claims

Headaches Symptoms: 

 

Headaches, particularly migraines, can often be accompanied by a range of additional symptoms including sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, and other neurological or sensory disruptions. These symptoms can significantly affect a person's ability to function normally. Here's more detail about each of these symptoms: 

Sensitivity to Light (Photophobia) and Sound (Phonophobia) 

  • Photophobia: A common symptom of migraines where light feels uncomfortably bright or painful. Sufferers may need to stay in dark rooms during migraine attacks. 

  • Phonophobia: Similar to photophobia, but with sound. Even normal levels of noise can seem overwhelmingly loud and can exacerbate headache pain. 

 

Vertigo 

  • Migraine-associated vertigo: This can include feelings of spinning, tilting, or unsteadiness that complicate a person’s balance. It's not uncommon for these symptoms to occur during or independently of the headache phase in a migraine. 

 

Aura 

  • Visual disturbances: Before the pain of a migraine begins, many experience visual phenomena such as seeing sparkles, zigzag lines, or temporary vision loss. 

  • Sensory changes: Numbness or tingling, often on one side of the face or in an arm or leg, can accompany migraines. 

  • Speech or language problems: Some experience difficulty speaking or understanding language during a migraine aura. 

 

Other Symptoms: 

  • Nausea and vomiting: These are especially common with migraines and can be as debilitating as the headache itself. 

  • Nasal congestion and runny nose: Often associated with cluster headaches and sometimes with migraines. 

  • Facial pain or pressure: Typically linked with sinus headaches but can also occur in migraines. 

  • Neck pain: Frequently reported with tension headaches and migraines. 

  • Increased urination: Some may find they need to urinate more frequently during migraine attacks. 

  • Mood changes: Anxiety, excitement, or depression can sometimes precede a migraine. 

 

Cognitive and Emotional Effects: 

  • Confusion: During severe headaches, especially migraines, some people may experience a temporary mental fog or confusion. 

  • Irritability: Headaches can cause significant changes in mood, particularly irritability or depression. 

 

These additional symptoms can complicate the diagnosis and management of headaches, as they overlap with many other conditions. When experiencing such symptoms, it's important to provide healthcare providers with a detailed account of what occurs before, during, and after headaches. This comprehensive description can assist in tailoring treatment plans that address not only the pain but also the accompanying symptoms that impact quality of life. 

Headache Symptoms

  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Can cause headaches typically described as early morning headaches that occur upon waking up. These headaches are often due to extremely high blood pressure levels. 

  • Sinus Conditions: Chronic sinusitis can lead to constant pressure and pain in the forehead and face, which can cause recurring headaches. 

  • Cervical Spine Conditions: Issues with the cervical spine, such as cervical spondylosis or degenerative disc disease, can cause headaches. 

  • Menstrual Cycles: Hormonal fluctuations related to menstrual cycles can trigger migraines or hormonal headaches in some women. 

  • Sleep Disorders: Conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia can lead to headaches. 

  • Eye Strain: Prolonged use of screens or untreated vision problems can lead to eye strain, often causing headaches. 

  • Mental Health Conditions: Conditions such as depression and anxiety can exacerbate or contribute to the frequency and severity of headaches. 

  • Tinnitus: Often associated with auditory conditions that may include headaches as a secondary symptom. 

  • Dental Injuries: Jaw misalignment or trauma from dental injuries can cause tension headaches. 

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Head Injuries: These injuries can lead to post-traumatic headaches which mimic migraines or cluster headaches. 

  • Medications: Certain medications, especially those for psychiatric conditions or high blood pressure, can have side effects that include headaches. 

Title: Secondary Conditions Associated With Headaches and Migraines:

Welcome to The VA Disability Advocate, where we understand the challenges and emotions veterans experience while navigating the complex process of filing a VA disability claim. I am Albert L. Thombs Jr.,  "The VA Disability Advocate," your dedicated advocate; I'm providing you with valuable insights and guidance to help you approach your claim with the right mindset. Filing a claim can be daunting, but with empathy, information, and support, you can increase your chances of success and obtain the benefits you deserve.

VA Rating Scale for Headaches: 

 

The VA rating scale for headaches, specifically migraines as outlined in the 38 CFR § 4.124a, diagnostic code 8100, categorizes the severity and frequency of headaches and assigns a disability percentage accordingly. Here’s how each rating is described along with associated symptoms: 

Let’s delve deeper into each VA disability rating level for headaches, particularly migraines, explaining the symptoms, frequency, severity, and how they affect a veteran's daily life and employment capabilities. 

0% Rating 

  • Symptoms: Headaches that occur infrequently and are mild in nature. They do not lead to prostrating attacks, meaning the veteran does not need to lie down or stop all activity due to the headache. 

  • Impact: These headaches cause minimal disruption to the veteran's daily activities and work life. The discomfort might be noticeable but does not interfere significantly with professional responsibilities or personal life tasks. 

10% Rating

  •  Symptoms: At this level, the headaches are characterized by prostrating attacks that occur approximately once every two months. These attacks are severe enough to require cessation of activity and a need to rest in a quiet, dark environment. 

  • Impact: Although the headaches are severe, their infrequent nature (about six times a year) means the veteran can generally maintain normal work and life routines with occasional disruptions. The veteran might miss a day of work or social activities during an attack but recovers and manages until the next episode. 

30% Rating 

  • Symptoms: The headaches occur more frequently at this rating level, with characteristic prostrating attacks about once a month. These attacks are debilitating, and the symptoms may include severe pain, nausea, and light and sound sensitivity, possibly affecting the veteran's physical stability. 

  • Impact: The regularity of these headaches, occurring roughly twelve times a year, significantly impacts the veteran’s ability to maintain consistent work. The veteran may need to take regular sick days and might struggle with job performance, though they are still able to hold a job. There may be some level of social withdrawal during these periods. 

50% Rating 

  • Symptoms: Headaches at this level occur very frequently and are intensely debilitating. Each headache results in a completely prostrating attack that can last for extended periods. The frequency and intensity of the headaches lead to severe pain, extreme sensitivity to environmental stimuli, and possibly additional neurological symptoms such as dizziness or visual disturbances. 

  • Impact: The severe and frequent nature of the headaches at this level typically results in "severe economic inadaptability," meaning the veteran is often unable to maintain employment. The physical and mental demands of a job become untenable due to the frequent need for rest and recovery, potentially leading to significant lifestyle adjustments and reliance on disability support. 

 

Additional Considerations: 

  • Documentation and Evidence: Veterans should maintain detailed records of their headache occurrences, symptoms, and treatments. Medical records, personal journals, and testimonies from colleagues or family can substantiate the frequency and severity of the headaches. 

  • Comprehensive Evaluation: During VA evaluations or C&P exams, it's crucial that veterans communicate not just the physical symptoms of their headaches but also the broader impacts on their mental health, social life, and ability to work. 

For veterans, accurately conveying the extent of their headache symptoms and their impacts on daily functioning is crucial for receiving a fair and adequate VA disability rating. This detailed information helps ensure that the rating not only reflects the medical severity of the headaches but also their practical implications on the veteran’s life and economic stability. 

Headach Rating
How to Talk to Your Dr.

What to Expect During a C&P Examination for Headaches: 

When a veteran files a claim for disability benefits, the VA may schedule a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam to evaluate the severity of the veteran’s condition and its connection to military service. However, it is important to note that it can take between 30 to 60 days for the VA to schedule this exam. Furthermore, the VA does not automatically schedule exams for all conditions listed in a veteran’s claim.

 

When attending a VA Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam specifically for headaches, you can expect a thorough evaluation to understand the severity, frequency, and impact of your headaches on your daily life and ability to work. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what to expect during the exam: 

Neurological DBQ:

 

Before the Exam: 

Preparation: Bring any medical records, headache diaries, and notes about your headaches, including details about frequency, duration, symptoms, treatments, and any over-the-counter or prescription medications you use. 

 

During the Exam:

Medical History Review: The examiner will review your medical history related to headaches, asking about the onset, types of headaches (e.g., migraines, tension-type, cluster headaches), and any related family history. 

Symptom Description: You will be asked to describe: 

  • Frequency: How often the headaches occur. 

  • Duration: How long each headache lasts. 

  • Intensity: The severity of the pain and whether it is throbbing, stabbing, or a constant ache. 

  • Location: Where on your head you experience the pain. 

  • Associated Symptoms: These include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, visual disturbances, and dizziness. 

  • Prostrating Episodes: Instances when headaches are severe enough require lying in a dark, quiet room. 

  • Daily Activities: How do headaches affect daily activities, including chores, social interactions, and family life? 

  • Work Impact: Specifically, how headaches affect your ability to perform at work or if they have caused you to miss work days. 

  • Physical Examination: The examiner may perform a physical exam to check for any neurological abnormalities that could be contributing to the headaches. This might include checking your reflexes, muscle strength, eye movements, coordination, and sensation. 

  • Discussion of Treatment: What treatments have you tried, what has been effective, and any side effects of medications? 

 

Tips for the Exam: 

  • Be Detailed and Honest: Provide specific details about your symptoms and their impact on your life. Honesty is crucial for an accurate assessment. 

  • Consistency: Make sure your descriptions are consistent with what you have reported in your medical records and any claims forms. 

  • Advocacy: If needed, bring someone with you who can help describe the impact of your headaches or help you remember to mention all relevant information. 

  • Follow-Up: After the exam, if you think of additional information that may help your case or if you feel something was not properly documented during the exam, you can contact the VA to submit additional information. 

The VA C&P exam for headaches is designed to comprehensively assess how your condition affects your life, particularly your ability to work, which is a critical factor in determining your VA disability rating. Being well-prepared and transparent during the exam is essential for accurately evaluating your disability claim. 

Headache & Migraine Exam

What Happens Once the C&P Exam is Complete

After completing your Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam, the next steps involve a review and decision-making process by the VA to determine your disability rating and benefits. Here's an overview of what you can expect:

 

Examination Report and Review:

Examiner's Report: The examiner will compile a detailed report based on the findings from your C&P exam. This report includes your medical history, the results of the physical examination, and any diagnostic tests performed. The examiner will also assess your condition, noting the severity, symptoms, and how the condition impacts your daily life and work.

Submission to VA: The completed report is sent to the VA Regional Office handling your claim. This report becomes part of your official VA file and is reviewed along with your other medical records and evidence submitted in support of your claim.

Second Opinions and Delays: After the veteran's exam is complete and the examiner submits their report to the VA, the VA may send the report back for corrections, clarification, or a second opinion if it finds the report incomplete or unclear. This process can delay your claim, as the VA requires thorough and accurate information to make a decision. Your claim will only move to the decision phase once the VA is satisfied with the evidence and documentation provided. This ensures that all aspects of your condition are thoroughly considered, ultimately impacting the outcome of your claim.

The VA Decision Process:

  • Rating Decision: A VA Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR) will review the examiner's report, along with all other evidence in your file, to determine your disability rating. The rating is based on the VA's Schedule for Rating Disabilities, which assigns percentages to various conditions based on their severity and impact on your ability to work and perform daily activities.

  • No Time Frame for Decision: It’s important to understand that there is no set time frame for the VA to make a final decision after all exams are complete. If there’s a delay in the process, it often means the VA is deliberating over something in your case. It's crucial not to count your chickens before they hatch, as the VA can request follow-up exams or medical opinions before making a decision.

  • Deferred Decisions: Sometimes, the VA may defer rendering a decision on certain conditions while it processes your claim. This approach allows the VA to decide on ready portions of your claim without holding up the entire process. Deferred conditions often mean the VA will almost certainly ask for a second opinion or request an additional exam. This can cause frustrations and delays, but it’s essential to be patient as this is out of your and our control.

  • Notification of Decision: The VA will send you a Rating Decision letter once a decision is made. This letter details the outcome of your claim, including the disability rating assigned to each condition, the effective date of the rating, and the amount of monthly compensation you will receive. If your claim is approved, the letter will also explain how and when you will receive your benefits.

  • Possible Outcomes:

  • Approval: If your claim is approved, you will receive monthly disability compensation based on the assigned rating percentage.

  • Denial: If your claim is denied, the letter will explain the reasons for the denial. You have the right to appeal the decision if you disagree with the outcome.

Next Steps and Appeals:

Appeals Process: If you disagree with the VA's decision, you have the option to appeal. The appeal process involves several steps, including submitting a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and possibly presenting additional evidence or attending a hearing. It’s important to understand the timelines and procedures for filing an appeal.

The VA Denied Your Claim Again, Now What?

If your VA claim has been denied and you find yourself receiving the same denial reasons repeatedly, remember that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. We understand how frustrating and disheartening this process can be, but we are here to help you appeal your denied condition effectively.

 

Why Most VA Claims Are Denied

Many VA claims are denied due to a lack of sufficient evidence, incorrect filing procedures, or missing the crucial nexus between service and current conditions. The VA requires specific documentation and clear connections between your military service and your medical issues. Without these, your claim may be repeatedly denied.

 

How We Can Help

Veterans should seek the assistance of an Accredited VA Disability Advocate because we offer expert guidance through the complex VA claims process, ensuring all necessary evidence is properly gathered and submitted. Our trained advocates increase the likelihood of a successful claim by identifying and connecting service-related conditions. Additionally, we provide personalized support and representation, helping veterans secure the benefits they deserve.

 

Free Consultation

For a free consultation, register here https://www.vadisabilityadvocate.com/book-free-consultation. In order for us to conduct your free consultation, you must sign VA Form 21-22a (VA POA) and VA Form 21-0966. Without these forms, we will not be able to gain access to your files for review.

 

Don't Lose Your Effective Date

If your claim was denied within the last year, you might have time left to file your appeal before the VA closes it. If you miss this window, you will lose your effective date and potential for back pay, and you will have to start over with new and relevant evidence.

Stay Proactive During the Appeal Process

During the appeal process, it's crucial to see your doctor regularly until your case is settled. Talk to our agents, and we will guide you through your appeal options, including:

  • VA Supplemental Form 0995

  • VA Higher-Level Review Form 0996

  • VA Board of Appeals Form 10182

 

Protecting Your Rights

We keep the VA and Examiners honest by pushing back on bad Compensation & Pension (C&P) Examinations, inaccurate or incomplete reports, and instances where the VA does not follow their own guidelines in M21 and 38 CFR. We make sure your legal right to benefits is protected by applying applicable laws when needed.

 

Contact Us Today

Don’t navigate this complex process alone. Contact us today to ensure your claim is handled with the care and expertise it deserves.

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722 

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