Migraine as a Disability: A snapshot at Filing for Medical Disability

Key Points

  • The Canadian Survey on Disability in 2017 (Statistics Canada)
  • According to the Canadian Survey on Disabilities the most common "type" of disability is pain-related (15%)
  • Do chronic migraines qualify for disability?
  • A real-life Chronic Migraine (CM) sufferer's experience filing for disability for her migraines
  • The Founder of a CM support group discusses various disability claims (and their likelihood)
  • Your absolute last option should be to contacting a Disability lawyer

The Canadian Survey on Disabilities in 2017 did NOT cover migraine as a Disability

This Canadian Survey on Disability covers Canadians aged 15 years and over whose everyday activities are limited because of a long-term condition or health-related problem. 1

This survey found that 22% of Canadians had at least one disability. In 2017 this represents 6.2 million people. 1

Disability types were further broken down into four categories which include: pain-related (15%), flexibility (10%), mobility (10%), mental health-related (7%)

View the entire PDF from the Government of Canada HERE

Do chronic migraines qualify for disability?

U.S. Sufferers

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has no standard disability listing for migraines in their Blue Book, but this doesn't mean you can't get approved for benefits with chronic migraines. It simply means you'll need to prove that you're unable to maintain a full-time job and earn a gainful living due to your limitations. 2

To determine your eligibility, the SSA will:
  • look at your daily limitations
  • consider the frequency and severity of your headaches
  • examine your employment options
  • review your medical evidence

If after taking all of these factors into account, the SSA finds you're unable to perform the essential job duties of any job for which you're otherwise qualified, then you'll be deemed medically eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. 2

Please read the full document here

Canadian Sufferers

As migraine pain can be triggered randomly, living with the constant fear of having them is indeed very stressful. For this reason, the Canadian government recognized migraine pain as a disability to provide comfort for the sufferers through their disability tax credit program. 3

To read about how the Canadian Disability Benefit can help to discuss the disability tax credit, types of disabilities they cover, and various refund processes visit www.canadiandisabilitybenefits.ca

Knowledge is power. Being an informed patient sends a signal to your physician, that you are searching for ways to help you both find solutions to your particular situation!

Interestingly, migraines are considered a disability, according to the Canadian Disability Benefits page. For a list of disabilities (that includes migraine) click on the tab Types of Disabilities. 3

One Real-life Chronic Migraine sufferer's disability experience

She makes the following points regarding her experience

As a long-time Chronic Migraine sufferer, I was forced to apply for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability.  This process took a lot of time/work and was very difficult for me but the support of my doctors helped me through it.   My family physician completed the doctor's form as he could account for the years of co-existing medical conditions on top of my CM.  My neurologist provided a good supporting letter. Because I also suffer from fibromyalgia (= overwhelming pain/exhaustion, anxiety/depression, concentration/memory problems) and other issues, my application consisted of letters from every specialist, including a psychologist, and all tests results. This resulted in a very complete, but lengthy application.  It was successful. In short, be as forthcoming as possible. The more detail and information you provide will only help the CPP agents make a good decision on your behalf.

As Constance points out her disability application was done entirely by mail, with supporting letters from physicians and a specialist. She further notes that she had a friend that also applied (successfully) - hers was 40 pages.  In her case, the Disability Agents contacted her doctor for additional information. 

Regards, Constance (a real-life chronic migraine sufferer) 4

Canadian Chronic Migraine support group - weighs in

The Founder of Chronic Migraine Canada support group suggests that "most Chronic Migraine sufferers seem to be on some sort of disability however, from what I have observed, almost all of them use their comorbid conditions in order to get the claim to go through. For most patients, these conditions include anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Very few are able to get it for Chronic Migraine alone as pain is not even a category unto itself. The unfairness is staggering as ADHD, dyslexia and many other conditions which are far less debilitating, and more easily treated, are considered disabilities. Her understanding is that the main sticking point is that PAIN is subjective. She further comments (I would argue that anxiety and depression are as well). Many of our members are on the following:

  • Short Tern Disability
  • Long Term Disability
  • Canada Pension Plan Disability (CPPD)
  • Provincial Disability (ODSP in Ontario)
  • Disability Tax Credit (DTC) - (by far the hardest one to obtain). 5

Doing your own research about your condition puts you in the drivers seat!

Becoming your own advocate can be very fulfilling. Not only do your learn how the system navigates, you also learn what pitfalls to avoid. This can be very empowering. 6

An absolute must, is to keep a detailed log or history as to physicians you have accessed, important dates, and any tests or procedures that were performed.

Contacting a Disability Lawyer should be your absolute last option

If your short-term or long-term disability claim has been denied at any stage, you should know you can fight the insurance company’s decision. If you have appealed and appealed and been denied, you do have the option to challenge the insurance company. 7 - reference - Disability Lawyer - A Waxman - Toronto

Be aware that most lawyers charge a large significant fee for their services.

References

  1. The Canadian Survey on Disabilities - 2017
  2. Social Security Disability (U.S.)
  3. Canadian Disability Benefits 2020
  4. Real-life chronic migraine sufferer - Constance 2020
  5. Canadian chronic migraine Facebook support group - 2020
  6. Brent Lucas, headache researcher - March 2021
  7. Waxman and Associated, Disability lawyer - 2020

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