MIGRAINE HEADACHES AND DISABILITY

If you have chronic migraine headaches you may be a candidate for Long-Term Disability and Social Security Disability. Migraine headaches can be incapacitating and disabling. “A migraine is defined as a condition that is marked by recurrent, usually unilateral severe headache often accompanied by nausea and vomiting and followed by sleep…that is uncertain in origin…” Cecil v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.,7:05CV00003, 2005 WL 2291225 *5 (W.D. Va. Sept. 19, 2005). Indeed, “it is accepted wisdom that a person who experiences severe migraine headaches multiple times a week cannot maintain a regular work schedule.” Id., at *4. However, migraine headaches are particularly unsusceptible to diagnostic testing. See, e.g., Ortega v. Chafer, 933 F.Supp. 1071, 1075 (S.D.Fla.1996) (present-day laboratory tests cannot prove the existence of migraine headaches); McCormick v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 666 F.Supp. 121 (E.D.Mich.1987) (migraine headaches not traced easily to an objective medical condition), affd, 861 F.2d 998 (6th Cir.1988). As stated in Wiltz v. Barnhart,484 F. Supp. 2d 524, 533 (W.D. La. 2006): “Since there is nothing to ‘see’ on an MRI, x-ray, CT scan or blood test, courts look to other objective medical signs to determine whether the claimant’s complaints are consistent with the existence of disabling migraine pain, including whether the claimant’s migraines are accompanied by drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision, whether the claimant has been prescribed medication for migraines and the associated symptoms of nausea and vomiting, whether the plaintiff is sensitive to light (photophobic) or sound, whether the claimant has received continuing and regular treatment for migraines – including outpatient and emergency treatment – and whether the claimant’s symptoms are consistent with those of migraine headaches.” Fortunately, the law recognizes that for disability matters like migraine headaches which involve chronic pain, because such pain is subjective, the “objective” evidence is to be found in the underlying medical condition. If such condition objectively exists, and if pain would “reasonably be expected” to result from such conditions, then it is an abuse of discretion for an ERISA plan administrator to bar claims such as this from approval. See, e.g., Saffon v. Wells Fargo LTD Plan, 522 F.3d 863, 873 (9th Cir. 2009); Patrick v. Hewlett-Packard, 638 F.Supp.2d 1195, 1214-15 (SD Cal. 2009);Montour v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 588 F.3d 623, 635-36 (9th Cir. 2009).