This Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, the National Headache Foundation and our partner organizations turn our attention toward the barriers to care that millions of Americans face trying to treat headache and migraine disorders. This problem is especially acute for U.S. service members and veterans. Studies show that veterans are more likely to develop migraine or other headache disorders. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 36 percent of veterans who served at least a one-year tour in Iraq or Afghanistan have a diagnosis for migraine or a headache disorder. The National Headache Foundation is advocating for veterans to increase access and quality of care for the men and women who bravely serve our country.
Headache and migraine disorders are a pervasive issue among veterans in the United States, but less attention and fewer resources are devoted to the treatment of headache and migraine than to more visible physical traumas. From 2000 to 2020, more than 430,000 U.S. service members have a diagnosis for traumatic brain injuries. These brain injuries can lead to post-traumatic headache disorder. Headache and migraine can show up weeks or months after an injury; and the debilitating symptoms can last for years. A study from the Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health discovered a significant link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and combat-related injury among veterans who experienced migraine and tension-type headache. More than 300 veterans visited the Center for services during the study in 2009; nearly half reported experiencing migraine or headache.
Despite these overwhelming numbers and the clear link between combat and the onset of headache, veterans are not always able to access the resources they need to cope with migraine and headache disorders.
The National Headache Foundation, with the generous support of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, has launched Operation Brainstorm. This health resource initiative for veterans and active-duty military consists of a variety of programs:
- Primary care provider training via the National Headache Foundation’s Primary Care Migraine (PCM) educational program. PCM is available to healthcare providers throughout the VA medical system.
- A series of forums, hosted at American Legion halls, that brings veterans together to learn about chronic headache and migraine. They will provide service members and veterans with comprehensive resources and information. These forums will provide opportunities to: ask questions of headache experts; share stories and experiences with others who best understand their unique situation.
- Production and distribution of migraine survival toolkits.
- Sponsoring Veterans Views, a syndicated radio show hosted by veterans and focusing on issues affecting veterans.
The National Headache Foundation is honored to partner with Biohaven Pharmaceuticals on this program. Given the prevalence of migraine among veterans and active-duty military, there is an unmet need to share more information and elevate the level of discussion about the disease. Through this program, we hope to reach and support veteran and military patients and physicians.