Do chronic migraines qualify for disability benefits?

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Migraines, as some of our readers may know, are intense headaches that occur in one side of the head. They oftentimes cause pain, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, and sometimes even visual disturbances called auras. A migraine can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, sometimes even impacting a person’s ability to continue daily tasks until a headache has subsided.

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, then you know how disabling one can be. This is especially true for people who suffer from chronic or cluster migraines, which occur on a regular basis — sometimes even twice a week. But even though chronic migraines may be disabling to the sufferer, they may wonder if their condition meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability. The reason they may consider this is because they may need disability benefits for their condition and are wondering if they qualify.

Do chronic migraines qualify for disability benefits?

Although the term “chronic migraine headaches” does not appear on SSA’s Listing of Impairments, it is considered a medical equivalent to another disabling impairment on the Listing of Impairments: 11.03 epilepsy, non-convulsive. According to an example provided by SSA, some of the symptoms associated with migraines are similar to those associated with epilepsy, therefore making chronic migraines medically equivalent when it comes to applying for disability benefits.

As you may or may not know, a physical or mental condition can still result in disability even if it does not appear on the Listing of Impairments or list of Compassionate Allowances. When this occurs, SSA must then determine if a condition is medically equivalent to a condition it does recognize as a disability.

In the case of chronic migraines, there is an equivalent, which means a person living with this condition may qualify for disability benefits provided they can present evidence that shows how the condition prevents them from doing gainful activity and that the condition has or will last longer than a year.

Source: The Social Security Administration, “24505.015 Finding Disability Based on the Listing of Impairments,” Accessed Dec. 23, 2014

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