Canadian migraineurs not collecting Disability Tax Credit they are eligible for.
There are over four million people suffering from migraines in Canada — and roughly half of them don’t seek treatment from their doctor. Since the only way to apply for the Disability Tax Credit is to have a Disability Tax Credit Certificate completed by your doctor, there’s no way these two million Canadians can receive the tax credit they may qualify for.
Are you one of these migraineurs?
What is Migraine?
Migraine is a complex neurological condition that can involve mild-to-severe headaches, nausea and sensory disturbances. It can be highly debilitating, its effects impacting every part of a person’s life. If you experience migraines, it can affect your productivity and your ability to work or even hold down a job. Quality of life is usually reduced too, given the malaise (and commonly co-occurring clinical depression) from the symptoms and their effects on personal and social lives.
Common symptoms for migraine may include:
- Throbbing or pounding head pain, often on one side of the head
- Hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells and exertion
- Nausea, vomiting and “abdominal migraine”
- Visual symptoms like blurry vision, blind spots and scintillating “scotomas,” which may cause a temporary visual impairment or disability, depending on where they’re located in the field of vision
- Symptoms usually lasting between four to 72 hours
- Attacks occurring one to four times per month, or more than 15 days a month for Chronic Migraines
Why some Canadians don’t see a doctor for their migraines (and why they should):
Many people with a headache or migraine will reach for the quick over-the-counter medication, rather than talk to a doctor. Sometimes they will just try to power through the pain. Even for those who do see a doctor, 58% of diagnosed migraineurs in Canada don’t take prescription medication for their migraines. This is not even counting the undiagnosed.
Migraine can be progressive, with episodic migraines developing into chronic migraines. If you’re used to popping a Tylenol for the occasional headache, you can get used to the process and easily buy a new bottle without realizing it how much quicker it seems to empty. Dealing with the costs of over-the-counter drugs and supplements (both of which cannot be claimed for insurance or tax purposes) can build up over the year.
Prescription medication, on the other hand, can be claimed, but even then, price is a barrier with each pill (zolmitriptan, for example, costs over $8 a pill, with some insurance plans only covering 12 pills a month). Meanwhile Botox injections can eliminate migraines, but at a cost of roughly $800 every three months. It’s for reasons like this that migraineurs and their providers should inquire about the disability tax credit.
Another reason Canadians with migraines might be hesitant to book doctor’s appointments or make a claim for a tax credit they need is stigma.
As Dr. J. E. Park, a lead researcher on the stigma of migraine, said in 2010: “You can’t see it, so people don’t understand the condition, and co-workers and employers sometimes think the person is trying to get more time off for something unimportant because they don’t think the pain and suffering is real.”
Without feeling able to seek treatment or disability accommodations at work or financial accommodations like the disability tax credit, it can be difficult to keep up with your life — or hold down a job.
How migraines affect your ability to work
When you have a migraine, it can significantly affect your work performance — or attendance — in many ways. The disorder can be quite disruptive to work productivity and daily functioning.
According to a Statistics Canada report, over 25% of migraineurs endured pain that prevented their activities or felt left out of things because of their neurological disorder. Fifty three percent reported that their migraines sometimes prevented them from driving. Even more migraineurs (76%) had issues falling or staying asleep and waking feeling rested. The same StatsCan report cites previous studies showing a strong association between migraines and reduced productivity while at work (rather than from missing work). Try staying alert at your job with not only the chronic pain, but the sleep deprivation as well.
The president of the American Headache Society, Dr. David Dodick, says “there is such a thing as being ‘present’ at work, but not really being able to function well.” Dodick says that many migraine sufferers lose their jobs over it, and due to the stigma many are “afraid to admit they get migraines.”
If this weren’t hard enough, sometimes work itself can trigger a migraine. Ignoring the common stress trigger, working in an office with fluorescent lights and bright, glaring computer screens can make you feel like you’re staring directly into the Sun. The perfume from your colleagues can make you sick to your stomach. Even a loud work atmosphere can intensify the pain of a headache, rendering you unproductive.
There is still no known cause for migraine, although doctor do believe that migraineurs have a genetic predisposition to the disease. New medications are being developed and further research is being conducted, but until there is a cure, migraineurs will continue to face barriers to maintaining their employment, managing their personal lives and finances and keeping up a comfortable quality of life.
To help you (or your dependents) get proper medical treatment and a Disability Tax Credit Certificate from your doctor, it is helpful to record how much and how often your life is affected by migraines. Try maintaining a migraine diary, not only to spot trends and triggers, but also to get the medical and financial assistance you need.