We recently had a client come into our office who was suffering from severe migraines. She stated that she did not think she had a chance to get disability with “only” headaches. It is usually the case that there is some test for a serious medical problem and this will be used as evidence at a hearing. Disability cases dealing with musculoskeletal problems are more clear-cut because they show up on an MRI and are then used as evidence at the hearing.
But in her case, there was no test that would show migraines that we could use as evidence. She underwent an MRI before coming to our office, however, this showed that her brain was normal. Headache logs with documentation of when the headaches happen and the symptoms experienced, such as an aura or sensitivity to light or sound can be helpful. However, in this case, there were no headache logs. We realized this case would be difficult without clear test results or headache logs but we decided to help her because she had a strong work record but could not do her job due to her severe headaches.
The Factors Judges Consider in Disability Cases
Under the Social Security regulations, any disability she had would have to preclude not just her previous job but all work in the national economy. Shortly after accepting this case, another client came to us suffering from migraines as well. A few weeks earlier he had been denied disability at a hearing. This typically makes a case more difficult when the judge sees at a hearing that someone has been denied before if there is not a great deal of new evidence or new diagnoses. In his case, there were only headaches at his first denial and he still only had headaches. Also, he did not look disabled. He looked young and healthy. But as he gave us the details of the debilitating headaches and how they affected his life and made it impossible to work, we realized that we had to find a way to get disability for headaches when he had been previously denied.
What a Great Social Security Lawyer Can Do
We decided to summon our extensive knowledge of the Social Security Disability law and put together a case that would be difficult for the Administrative Law Judge to deny. In this instance, we called upon a little-known provision in the Program Operations Manual (POMS), the technical manual that Social Security judges should follow. In both cases, we equated regular debilitating headaches to the Listing of Impairments for epilepsy. An example of this is given in the technical manual for judges. Point by point, we showed that these headache cases had similar facts to the example given in the POMS.
After a round of interrogatories quickly responded to by our firm, they were both found to be disabled. To be fair, not every case of headaches will qualify as a disability. In these cases, our clients had a solid work record and a continuous record of trying treatments such as infusions, Botox injections and allergy treatments in an obvious effort to rid themselves of the headaches. But it does show that given the right knowledge and arguments made at the hearing level, the disabling conditions that preventing from work will be recognized, even if they are “only” headaches.