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Are Migraines Considered a Disability?

Young asian women at work struggling with regular migraines

Has a migraine ever caused you to miss work? Are you having difficulty taking care of yourself because the pain of your headaches is so intense? Then you may consider your migraines to be a disability. But can you file a disability claim and receive benefits for such a condition?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), migraines are not an automatic disability. Many migraine claims have been denied. Getting approved is difficult but not impossible. Each situation is different.

What the Courts Say

Not every ailment or medical condition is considered to be a disability, as decided by the court case Allen v. Southcrest Hospital, No. 11-5016, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 25488 (10th Cir. Dec. 21, 2011). The court determined that a woman who was diagnosed with migraines was not disabled, however, it did clarify that migraines can be a disability with the proper documentation.

The migraines in question did not pass the two tests for disability under the ADA. A plaintiff must prove that:

  1. They have a recognized impairment.
  2. This impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.

While the plaintiff, in this case, proved that she had an impairment, she could not adequately prove that the impairment limited life activities.  While she claimed that her abilities to work, sleep and care for herself were limited, she did go to work on the days she had migraines and “crashed and burned” when she got home. She also could not provide sufficient evidence showing what activities she could and could not do on the days that she had migraines.  The judge could not find any significant restrictions in the woman’s life due to the migraines.

Is it Possible to Receive Disability Benefits?

Receiving disability benefits for migraines is possible if you can prove your case. Start by keeping a journal of your symptoms. Include details such as frequency, level of impairment and forms of treatment.

Seek medical help from a doctor before filing for benefits. It helps to show that you are receiving treatment from a supportive doctor.

Be specific about your disability. Focus on the activities you can no longer do because of your migraines. Be detailed but honest. Don’t minimize your symptoms.

Include details about your work history. Show that your symptoms are so severe and debilitating that you cannot perform your present or previous jobs. That’s how you will get approved for benefits.

Seeking Reasonable Accommodations

To ask your employer about making reasonable accommodations, first consider your job duties and what changes would need to be made. Put your request in writing and get a report from your doctor. You may need advice from an employment attorney to understand what you are entitled to under the law. Once you have the information you need, submit your request to your employer.

Work with an Experienced New York Chronic Migraines Disability Lawyer

Migraines can be painful and annoying. They can cause dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination and even vision loss. It can be challenging to focus on your work duties when you’re experiencing such an intense headache.

If you have filed for disability benefits and have been denied, or are facing difficulty with your employer refusing to make reasonable accommodations for your migraines, you need to seek legal help. Let one of the experienced New York City chronic migraines disability lawyers at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. assess your case. Contact our firm today at (347)-464-8694 to schedule a consultation.


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