Headaches and Social Security Disability
People often wonder if they can receive Social Security Disability benefits solely for having headaches without any underlying medical condition being the cause of them. The answer is yes, and the Social Security Administration (The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a U.S. government agency that administers social programs covering disability, retirement, and survivors' benefits. It was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.) released updated standards in evaluating whether somebody should receive benefits under Social Security Ruling 19-4p.
SSR 19-4p notes that primary headache disorders and among the most common disorders of the nervous system and examples include migraine headaches, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches. Primary headaches differ from secondary headaches because they occur independently and are not symptoms of another medical condition such as fever, infection, high blood pressure, stroke or tumors.
Migraines and Social Security Disability
Migraines are vascular headaches involving throbbing and pulsating pain caused by the activation of the nerve fibers that reside within the wall of brain blood vessels traveling within the meninges (the three membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Tension-type headaches are characterized by pain in the head, scalp, face, jaw, or neck and are usually associated with muscle tightness. Cluster headaches are characterized by sudden headaches that occur in “clusters,” are usually less frequent and shorter than migraines and may be mistaken for allergies because they often occur seasonally.
Primary Headaches are diagnosed after a physician has excluded other medical or psychiatric causes for these symptoms. It is helpful to a physician when a person keeps a “headache journal” to document when the headaches occur, how long they last, what symptoms are associated with the headaches, and other co-occurring environmental factors. SSA will not establish the existence of a Primary Headache Disorder solely on a diagnosis or statement of symptoms. However, they will consider it based on a combination of diagnosis, observations and clinical findings, laboratory findings (or lack thereof), and response to treatment (or lack thereof).
RFC – Headaches Disorder
Normally, to be found Disabled based on a primary headache disorder, the SSA will evaluate how it affects a personal (RFC). They must consider and discuss the limiting effects of the Primary Headache Disorder and any related symptoms when assessing a person’s RFC. The RFC is the most a person can do despite his or her limitations. The SSA will consider the extent to which the person’s impairment-related symptoms are consistent with the evidence in the record. For example, symptoms of a primary headache, such as photophobia, may cause a person to have difficulty sustaining attention and concentration. Consistency and supportability between reported symptoms and objective medical evidence is key in assessing the RFC.
The most important factors when applying for Disability due to a Primary Headache Disorder is to document when they occur along with the intensity and length of the episode, treat regularly with a physician (preferably a Neurologist), and go through various treatments to try and help with the condition. Often, seeking the counsel and assistance of a Social Security attorney when applying for benefits or at a Disability Hearing, is most helpful in going through the process.