If you suffer from chronic migraines and they impact your ability to work, then you could qualify for disability benefits from Social Security. With disability, you not only qualify for monthly payments from the U.S. government, but you also receive free access to health care.
Migraine is the most common disabling brain disorder both globally and in the United States. If you’re currently living with migraines or a chronic migraine diagnosis, knowing the criteria the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to qualify you for disability can help you navigate the application process.
Are migraines a disability?
Yes, the SSA does treat severe migraines as a disability if you can specifically show that they prevent you from being able to work or handle daily activities. Just being diagnosed with migraines isn’t enough. The SSA requires you to meet strict medical criteria.
How the SSA defines migraines
The medical definition of chronic migraines involves suffering from a migraine at least 15 days out of the month and for at least three consecutive months. The SSA does not specifically define migraines or a chronic migraine condition, but does consider neurological disorders when granting disability benefits.
Can you get disability for migraines?
It’s possible to get disability benefits for your migraines if you can show that they’re severe enough to keep you from working, even after you’ve received months of medical treatment for them.
To qualify for disability with migraines, you have to provide detailed information to the SSA regarding your neurological condition. The SSA will look for documentation of any medical diagnosis and specific test results you have received for your migraines.
In particular, the SSA is looking for information that provides evidence for some or all of the following six areas:
1. You’ve received medications and treatments for migraines for at least three consecutive months, even if you haven’t seen the same physician each time.
2. You continue to suffer from debilitating migraines despite prescribed medical treatment.
3. You have results of imaging related to migraines, including those from an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or EEG (electroencephalography).
5. Your migraines cause “disorganization of motor function” (physical limitations) such as the inability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use your upper extremities (fingers, wrists, hands, arms, and shoulders).
6. Your migraines result in extreme mental limitations in at least two of the following areas:
Your ability to understand, remember, or apply information
Your ability to interact with others
Your ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
Your ability to adapt or manage yourself
You can use both medical and non-medical evidence to support your disability claim. For example, statements you or others make about your impairment from migraines, like restrictions from participating in, daily activities, or your efforts to work.
If you think your migraines are disabling enough to keep you from working, your next step is to apply for disability benefits. You’ll want to apply as soon as possible due to the length and complexity of the entire process. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can start receiving benefits.
Our 2-minute eligibility quiz is another useful resource before you get started. If you do meet the qualifications, we’ll reach out to learn more about your specific situation and connect you with an experienced disability lawyer. Our services are free of charge and you only pay the lawyer if they win your case.
What types of Social Security Disability benefits are available
There are two types of Social Security Disability benefits you can apply for: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income. You can apply for one or the other, or both at the same time.
SSDI offers a monthly income of up to about $3,600 per month in 2023 plus Medicare. It’s typically available if you’ve worked and paid taxes at least five of the past 10 years, but are no longer able to work.
SSI offers a monthly income of up to $914 per month in 2023 plus Medicaid. Eligibility for SSI is for those who are unable to work and have limited income and assets.
The average Social Security disability check for someone diagnosed with a neurological disorder (such as chronic migraines) is $1,304.03 per month.
However, the SSA’s payment calculations aren't based on your specific condition. They're determined by the number of years you’ve worked and your other income sources. You can find further details with our guide to how much people make on SSDI and SSI.
What if my migraines do not meet the criteria?
If your migraines don't satisfy the criteria above, you should consider applying for disability benefits anyway if you’re unable to work due to the severity, number, or frequency of migraines.
The bottom line is qualifying for disability is a difficult process. Only about 20% of people applying for disability benefits win their claim on the initial application. You can always appeal, which gives you a chance to submit new medical evidence and present your case in front of a judge. Just over half of applicants win their case when they go before a judge, so we almost always recommend appealing a disability denial.
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