Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and migraines are conditions that VA recognizes as distinct conditions that may affect veterans, but which also may related to one another, too.
Typically, when two service-connected conditions cause the same symptoms in a veteran, VA does not offer a separate rating for each condition, so that the veteran does not get double the disability compensation. However, due to the unique nature of TBIs and their prevalence in combat veterans, VA issues an exception and will offer compensation for both a TBI and migraines, if the migraines are tied back to the TBI.
TBIs and Migraines Explained
A TBI refers to an injury to the brain caused by a violent blow, jolt to the body, or object penetration into the brain. A TBI affects the brain’s ability to work, ranges in seriousness from mild to severe, and may show a range of symptoms in those who have them.
One possible side effect of a TBI is a migraine, or an intense headache which can last for hours at a time and may cause nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and blurred vision. Migraines may be so debilitating that a person is unable to do anything except lie down and wait for it to pass.
Significance of TBIs, Presumptive Conditions, and Migraines for Veterans
TBIs are common among veterans, particularly those who have experienced combat and the concussive effects of explosives. TBIs are also common these days with the prevalence of improvised explosive devices in recent combat zones. VA offers disability benefits for service-connected TBIs, but the ratings are based on a unique subset of criteria that is critical to understand.
Under Schedule of Ratings section 38 CFR § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8045 Residuals of traumatic brain injury (TBI), VA rates the residual symptoms of a TBI based on three different areas of a veteran’s functioning: cognitive, emotional/behavioral, and physical.
Generally, the symptoms in all three of these areas are evaluated under the table “Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified,” and given a score between 0-3, or “total,” all of which correspond to a rating as follows:
- 0: 0%
- 1: 10%
- 2: 40%
- 3: 70%
- Total: 100%
VA even recognizes a number of TBI presumptive conditions, meaning if you have a service-connected TBI and begin to suffer from another specific condition, VA presumes the two are related. The TBI presumptive list includes Parkinson’s disease, seizures, some types of dementia, depression, and certain hormone deficiency diseases, all of which must be medically tied to your TBI.
Migraines, however, are not granted presumption. Migraines do indeed fall under the TBI diagnostic criteria for cognitive dysfunction, and as such VA recognizes migraines as a possible symptom of a TBI, but because migraines can be diagnosed under another specific diagnostic code, VA treats it as a distinct condition with its own rating.
Specifically, VA rates migraines under 38 CFR § 4.124a, Schedule of Ratings – Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Diagnostic Code 8100, and offers ratings between 0-50% based on severity. Therefore, it is possible to collect disability compensation for service-connected TBI and migraines at the same time.
It’s also possible to combine ratings for a TBI and migraine to gain total disability individual unemployability (TDIU), which is given to veterans whose conditions are so severe that they prevent veterans from maintaining gainful employment. Veterans may be able to gain TDIU if they have a single condition rating at 60%, however, if you have one condition rated at 40% and and a secondary condition which can boost your total rating to 70%, you may also become eligible for TDIU. Hence the importance of recognizing that TBIs and migraines can be diagnosed as separate conditions, even if they are related.
Assistance with your claim
Navigating the ins and outs of getting a service connection for TBIs and migraines can be a hassle. And since so many veterans may be affected by them, it’s more important than ever that you get the representation you need to get the ratings you deserve. For assistance with your TBI and migraine claim or appeal, contact VA Disability Group PLLC online or at 844-VET-LAWS now.