Occipital Headaches

What Are Occipital Headaches?

The term occipital headaches describes headaches that affect primarily the back of the head, scalp, and/or the base of the skull. Occipital headaches often involve inflammation or injury of the occipital nerves, which run from the cervical spine (in the neck) to the rear portion of the scalp. The underlying neurological cause of occipital headaches is often referred to as occipital neuralgia. Physicians often diagnose or treat occipital headaches by injecting anesthetics or steroids to shut down the occipital nerve. If the pain stops, the occipital nerve can be identified as the cause of the headaches.

What Are the Symptoms of Occipital Headaches?

The symptoms of occipital headaches overlap somewhat with the symptoms of migraines. However, treatment for occipital headaches is very different from treatment for other headache conditions, so consulting with a physician or neurologist is important to get the proper diagnosis and care. Here are some of the distinctive symptoms of occipital headaches, adapted from WebMD:

– Aching, burning and throbbing pain that typically starts at the base of the head and goes to the scalp

– Pain on one or both sides of the head

– Pain behind the eye

– Sensitivity to light

– Tender scalp

– Pain when you move your neck

Proving Service Connection And Unemployability for Occipital Headaches

In the VA’s disability evaluation system, each condition has a rating schedule that determines the severity of symptoms that must be present for a veteran to receive a certain level of compensation. For occipital headaches, no specific rating schedule exists, so veterans with occipital headaches are evaluated using the rating schedule for migraines (see below), because the two conditions are considered “closely analogous” under 38 CFR 4.20.

As with other headache conditions, veterans with occipital headaches are eligible for service connection if their headaches were diagnosed in service, within twelve months of discharge, or as a secondary condition to another service-connected impairment. Service medical treatment records, VA medical records, and records of other doctor and clinic visits can help you establish service connection for your occipital headaches.

Many veterans with occipital headaches find that the headaches are so severe that routine daily activities become all but impossible, including the strenuous tasks associated with working a job. Unfortunately, as you can see by the rating schedule below, the highest possible schedular rating for any headache condition is 50 percent. To get a 50 percent rating, the veteran must experience “completely prostrating and prolonged attacks” (headaches that are so bad that the veteran must lie down) several times each month.

Based on the opinions of our consulting vocational experts, our firm believes and regularly argues to the VA that anyone who is required to lie down for long periods several times each month cannot meet the demands of a job requiring regular attendance. Generally, the VA accepts our view, and will grant a veteran with severe headaches a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU rating), with monthly benefits paid at the 100 percent rate.

Statements from other servicemembers, coworkers, or family members who can attest to the debilitating and prostrating nature of your tension headaches can help you win total disability benefits. Keeping a headache journal will also help prove the frequency and severity of your headaches to the VA.

Rating Schedule for Occipital Headaches

Like all headache conditions, occipital headaches are evaluated using the schedule for migraine headaches, with a maximum schedular rating of 50 percent.

50 Percent:
With very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability

30 Percent:
With characteristic prostrating attacks occurring on an average once a month over last several months

10 Percent:
With characteristic prostrating attacks averaging one in 2 months over last several months

0 Percent (Noncompensible):
With less frequent attacks

Win Total Disability Benefits for Your Occipital Headaches

If you or a loved one served in the United States Armed Forces and cannot work due to occipital headaches, the veteran advocates at Friedman Disability can help you prove service connection, increase your schedular rating, and win full unemployability benefits from the VA. Our firm’s VA disability attorneys have over 25 years of experience working with medical and vocational experts to win claims, securing total disability ratings based on unemployability (TDIU ratings) for more than 5,000 veterans. Over the course of our practice, our attorneys have developed effective legal strategies for winning TDIU ratings specifically for veterans with headache conditions. Our fee is 20 percent of your past-due benefits ONLY if we win your claim. To get started with a free evaluation of your claim, call our offices at 800-742-5035, or visit https://veterans-disability-lawyers.com/contact-us.