Migraines are neurological headaches that can also encompass additional symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Ranging in severity from mild to debilitating, they can last anywhere from a few hours to over a day – sometimes longer.
There are around 8 million migraine sufferers in the UK. Migraines can have a significant impact on the sufferer’s quality of life, especially if they get them on a regular basis. It's difficult (but not impossible) to get disability benefits if severe or chronic migraines prevent you from working regularly.
Remember, you will more likely get approved if you have a well-documented history of persistent, severe migraines that substantially interfere with your daily life. If this applies to you, here’s what you need to know about getting help.
The eighth leading cause of disability
First things first, whether you medically qualify for benefits will depend on the length, frequency and severity of your migraines. There are certain financial eligibility rules that apply as well. Only if you can satisfy all of the requirements will you be considered for benefits on medical grounds.
The World Health Organization labels migraines as the eighth leading cause of disability in the world. As chronic migraine sufferers will attest, they can sometimes prevent you from working entirely, not to mention impact your social life and ability to care for yourself and others.
So of course, the cost of chronic migraines can’t all be quantified in cash value alone. But it’s often the case that migraines tend to happen during a person’s most productive years since they’re most common in people aged 25-55. Therefore, they can have a significant impact on earning potential.
There’s another issue with migraines in the workplace that often goes unaddressed. That is, despite being in pain, many sufferers will not take sick leave. This is also known as presenteeism: when an employee still comes to work despite being unwell.
Presenteeism usually happens due to fear of disciplinary action or losing one’s job due to frequent absences or concerns about being seen as unreliable. It can actually end up costing employers almost twice as much as absenteeism.
Employees and employers need to work together to make sure that the right support is offered, both clinically and in the workplace, to ensure that migraine sufferers can continue to reach their potential at work.
Building a case
Getting approved for disability due to migraines can be tricky. In the States, the Social Security Administration doesn’t yet recognise migraines as severe enough to warrant benefits. Here are the details you need for the UK.
An important first step is to start building a migraine history. Keep a diary of your headaches – when they happen, how long they last, their severity – for around three months. This is crucial to demonstrating just how migraines affect your life and ability to work.
You will also need to make sure your doctor is on board and ready to support your claim. When you apply for benefits, you will need to show that you’ve been working with a medical professional to find ways of managing your migraines.
Jumping through hoops
The next step is to fill in your work history. After assessing your condition, your role will then be assessed to determine whether the migraines do, in fact, inhibit your ability to work – in your current position or indeed any other type of role.
Don’t be discouraged if your claim is initially denied. Most people who repeatedly file for benefits due to illness are eventually approved if they’re persistent. If your migraines are bad enough to keep you from working entirely, then you might want to consider applying for disability insurance.
Living with chronic migraines is a daily struggle. If you need help, then it’s important to find it. While the application process can be troublesome, it is well worth it for the freedom and peace of mind of knowing that the condition won’t cost you your income.
Rest and recuperation
It can certainly be difficult for people with chronic, invisible illnesses like migraines to thrive in the workplace. To qualify as a disability, you’ve got to be able to prove that your migraines affect your ability to perform everyday work activities.
It’s not the only option, of course. There are some jobs that are much easier for people who suffer from chronic migraines to fit around their lives.
Claiming a disability can be a viable way to help you maintain an income while looking into suitable treatment or workplace options. In the meantime, it’s important to use your medical leave as a time to rest and recover – with as little stress as possible.
Finally, find an experienced disability attorney who will provide you with the necessary information about what you need to qualify for the benefits with migraines. Keep hold of records from the hospital or doctor, any test results you have, lists of the treatments your doctor has prescribed, and any medical notes about the severity of your condition.