Critics of the Social Security Disability system like to contend that the system has become too lenient. Our response to that contention is always clear: it is Congress that has expanded the definition of disability, not disability lawyers.

Moreover, the aging of the American population has made more people experience the type of disabling conditions that make them eligible to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSDI). In Southeast Michigan and across the country, those benefits are a lifeline for many people.

In other words, it is all too easy to criticize a caricature of SSD as a government program run amok. It is quite another thing to deal with disabling conditions.

One of those potentially disabling conditions, researchers are now verifying, is migraine headaches.

To be sure, the notion that headaches could be disabling may sound like prime example of an overly expansive definition of disability. After all, headaches are the ordinary stuff of daily life, aren’t they, more of an annoyance than an actual impairment?

In practice, however, migraine headaches are not ordinary headaches. They are a manifestation of a neurological disease. In other words, migraines reflect a brain disorder. And they can be so severe they are disabling, lasting up to 72 hours at a time and making people unable to work.

Moreover, migraines are much more widespread than commonly thought. Regrettably, they have often carried a certain social stigma, as if the person suffering from them were exaggerating their effects. But recent research shows that nearly one in every people in the U.S. is affected by them.

Source: USA Today, “Researcher works to unlock mysteris of migraines,” Tim Johnson, May 16, 2013