VA Migraines and PTSD: Exploring the Connection and Claim Process

If you are a veteran who is suffering from PTSD as well as migraines, you are not alone! Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to your time in service may often cause migraines later in life. In that case, you can increase your benefits by getting a VA disability rating for migraines secondary to PTSD.

Do not miss out on the extra benefits if you are diagnosed with both of these conditions. Here’s everything you need to know about the connection between PTSD and migraines in veterans and what benefits you can get from the VA relating to it.


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Understanding Migraines and PTSD

PTSD is a mental health disorder that results from experiencing a traumatic event. According to the National Center for PTSD, 7 out of every 100 veterans are diagnosed with PTSD due to their experience in service.

Migraine is a type of headache that causes intense pain on one side of your head. Intense migraine attacks can lead to hypersensitivity to light, insomnia, etc. Veterans are more likely to suffer from migraine attacks compared to civilians.


Migraine Symptoms

Moderate or severe pain on one or both sides of the head is the primary symptom of migraines. This can be accompanied by several other symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling unwell
  • Hypersensitivity to sound and light

PTSD Symptoms

The symptoms of PTSD are more complicated compared to migraines. Some examples are:

  • Having flashbacks and nightmares of traumatic events
  • Avoiding certain triggers (people or places) that remind you of a traumatic event
  • Feeling anger and irritation
  • Physical sensations such as sweating, pain, trembling, etc.

PTSD can often be the result of the traumatic events a person faces during their time in the service. Migraines, on the other hand, can derive from PTSD or can be resulted directly from the service time.

Rating Criteria

The VA rating process is a metric developed by Veterans Affairs to understand the intensity of someone’s disability. Therefore, the higher your disability rating, the more benefits, and compensations you can get from the VA.

Let’s have a look at the ratings for both migraines and PTSD:

VA Migraine Rating

VA assigns up to a 50% rating for migraines, unlike their regular 100% maximum range. Therefore, you can get the following ratings for migraines:

  • 0% – Attacks are not frequent
  • 10% – Prostrating and frequent attacks that happen at least once every two months
  • 20% – Prostrating and frequent attacks that happen at least once every month
  • 30% – Prostrating, frequent and prolonged attacks that lead to economic inadaptability

VA PTSD Rating

Unlike migraines, veterans can get up to a 100% rating due to PTSD. Here are the metrics of the rating:

  • 0% – Diagnosed PTSD but not severe
  • 10% – PTSD leading to inefficiency at work and impairment to social life
  • 30% – PTSD leading to inefficiency at work and impairment to social life with a lot more severity
  • 50% – Similar to previous stages, only with more accompanying adverse symptoms
  • 70% – Impairment in work and social life with more adverse symptoms
  • 100% – Inability to work or participate in social life due to the extreme severity of the condition

Note that these descriptions are overly simplified, and the VA will take a lot more details into account to give a proper rating.

Combined Ratings

When you claim VA disability benefits for two different disorders, you can receive a combined rating. It works like this:

Let’s imagine you received a 50% rating for PTSD and a 10% rating for migraines. Your combined rating will be 55%.

VA will calculate your combined rating by ‘combining’ instead of adding the ratings of two disorders. So, in this case, VA’s 50% rating entails that you are 50% disabled and 50% not disabled. Then, the 10% rating for migraines will be calculated with your 50% ‘not disabled’ half. The 10% of 50 is 5; therefore, 5 will be added to your disabled 50%, making it 55% in a combined rating.

Service Connection for Migraines and PTSD

The VA will deny an application without a service connection as they do not offer compensation for disabilities unrelated to your time in the service. Therefore, it’s essential to prove that your disabilities are a direct or indirect result of your time in service.

To do this, you will need a Nexus letter. Here’s how to get it:

  • Set up an appointment with a doctor familiar with the VA disability claim process.
  • Explain your condition and help the doctor set a connection to your disability with your time in service.
  • The doctor will then provide you with a Nexus letter. Review it and then submit it with other documents while applying for a claim.

Evidence for a Successful Claim

To get any compensation at all for your disorders, you need to provide the VA with proper evidence. When it comes to PTSD, you will need a few of the following papers:

  • A PTSD diagnosis from a certified mental health care practitioner (psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.)
  • Unit records of duty and assignments during your time in service
  • A DD214 form
  • Statements from family and friends
  • Statements from veterans who were deployed with you
  • A nexus statement proving service-connection

Migraine also requires similar types of documents as well as a nexus statement from a doctor that can prove service connection.

Secondary Service Connection

A secondary service connection is when you develop a disorder from an existing service-connected condition. For example, if you have service-connected PTSD, which leads to migraines later in life, then the migraines would fall under a secondary service connection.

As mentioned before, you need to provide the necessary documents to prove both the primary and secondary service-connected disorders to receive a combined rating from the VA.

Compensation and Pension Exams

After filing for a disability claim, the VA can ask you to take part in a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination. This exam is done so that the VA can understand the severity of your condition through physical and psychological evaluations. Moreover, the doctors taking this exam will evaluate your existing medical records.

Preparing for C&P Exams

  • Take a look at your existing medical documents.
  • Bring relevant medical records that can help the examiner.
  • Be honest while answering questions.
  • Make sure you are dressed comfortably for the exams.
  • Bring someone with you if you need support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I file a VA disability claim for migraines and PTSD?

Yes, you can file a VA disability claim for both conditions if they are service related.

What evidence do I need to file a successful VA disability claim?

You will need papers of diagnosis, service-connection evidence such as a Nexus letter, and other records from your time in service or from your friends and family.

Can I receive VA disability compensation for migraines and PTSD if I was not diagnosed during military service?

As long as you can prove that the conditions derive from any injuries and/or traumatic experiences from your time in service, you can receive VA benefits for your disability.

How can I access VA healthcare for migraines and PTSD?

Apply for VA healthcare benefits with a VA Form 10-10EZ online, by mail, or in person to get healthcare services for PTSD and migraines.

Can I receive VA disability compensation for migraines and PTSD if I am still on active duty?

VA disability compensation is only provided to veterans. Therefore, you will not get financial benefits while on active duty, but you will still receive medical care.

Can I receive VA disability compensation for migraines and PTSD if I have a history of the condition before military service?

Yes, you can still get a VA disability rating only if your time in service has worsened those conditions.

Can I receive retroactive VA disability compensation for migraines and PTSD?

Back pay, or retroactive VA disability compensation, is available for PTSD and migraines.


It’s important to remember that even though your claim gets denied or if you do not get an appropriate disability rating, you can also appeal the decision of the VA. Getting your disability benefits for migraines and PTSD may seem like a very laborious process. If you need help, VA Disability Coach can assist you in going through this process.