Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Chronic Headaches or Migraines?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with chronic headaches or migraines to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your chronic headaches or migraines won’t keep you out of work for at least a year,
(2) Your chronic headaches or migraines aren’t severe,
(3) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(4) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of chronic headaches or migraines are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with chronic headaches or migraines. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to document the frequency, severity, and inability to control your headaches or migraines. The side effects of medication can cause dizziness, drowsiness and make you feel like you have been run over by a truck.
Ms. Cavey offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Are The Symptoms of Chronic Headaches or Migraines, and How Does SSA View These Claims?
Headache and migraine claims often are denied on the basis of a “lack of objective findings.” There is no gold standard test for diagnosis, and many times CT scans or MRIs are normal.
The diagnosis is made based on your subjective complaints. A diagnosis of migraines is made by identifying a recurrent headache with:
* Sensitivity to light,
* Sensitivity to sound,
* Sensitivity to movement,
* Visual disturbances, such as tunnel vision or blind spots.
Other organic causes must be ruled out.
The International Headache Society has created a table with diagnostic criteria that can be used to explain the basis of the diagnosis.
SSA will want to see in your medical records:
- The basis for your diagnosis,
- Any visits to the emergency room or hospitalizations,
- The results of objective testing, including MRIs or CT scan, to rule out other causes of your headaches,
- Migraines that occur at least twice a week,
- A headache diary,
- A history of your symptoms,
- A history of how your symptoms impacted your ability to function and for how long after each migraine,
- Your medication, dosage and response to the medication, and
- Your compliance with your doctor’s recommendations,
You should keep a headache diary on a calendar and give your physician a copy at every visit and ask that it be made part of your chart. That will help support your claim.
It is crucial that you see a neurologist who specializes in headaches and migraines and, if necessary, also be treated by a pain specialist. That will take care of any arguments you aren’t getting appropriate care.
Because there is no listing for chronic headaches or migraines, SSA will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5, unless you can show your headaches or migraines equal a listing. For example, it might be possible to show that imitations caused by headaches are as severe as the limitations in the epilepsy listings.
When Your Chronic Headaches or Migraines Makes It Impossible to Work
You must prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your FMS.
Residual Functional Capacity For Chronic Headaches or Migraines
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that explain:
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour work day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight-hour work day,
- Would you be off task for at least 15% of the work day due to pain,
- Whether you have to take frequent as needed rest breaks throughout the day because of nausea, pain, or the side effects of medication,
- Whether you have problems with concentration.
- Whether you have problems with short-term memory loss that makes it hard for you to understand simple instructions,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems, including depression or anxiety, that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a headaches or mental impairment RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve For Headaches or Migraines?
Regular and severe migraine headaches can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- file your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits;
- challenge a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration;
- file a Request for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by experienced Social Security Disability attorney Nancy Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for chronic headaches and migraines. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.