Every day of the year, the VA Connecticut Headache Center of Excellence (HCoE) focuses on treating Veterans suffering from migraines and headaches.

The mission for the HCoE team is to provide quality headache care to Veterans. They do this by taking a holistic approach to treating Veterans. This can include physical therapy, exercise, diet and nutrition changes, Botox injections, medications and other advanced therapies.

Leading the charge in the fight against headaches at VA Connecticut is Dr. Emmanuelle Schindler, a neurologist who has been with VA since 2016. “I always found the brain really interesting,” he said. “When I did my rotations during medical school, I liked seeing headache patients. That’s because there are a lot of treatments out there and you can make peoples’ lives much better.”

VA Headache Centers of Excellence were approved by a Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee recognized that over 350,000 Veterans sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) during the Global War on Terror. It also recognized that chronic migraine/post-traumatic headache is the signature symptom of TBI.

Members of the Headache Center of Excellence. From left: Pharmacist Alex Guirguis, Nurse Practitioner Maxine Coore, Dr. Ashish Adlakha, Dr. Emmanuelle Schindler

“Headaches now manageable so they can enjoy life.”

“I would tell Veterans if you are getting headaches regularly, tell your primary care physician, and from there you can be referred to the HCoE,” said Schindler. “It’s been very rewarding working at VA. I’ve had several patients who weren’t able to work and didn’t have much of a life due to their headaches. While we haven’t gotten these patients down to zero headaches, we have able to make their headaches manageable so they can enjoy life.”

Posttraumatic headaches occur in up to 92% of military personnel who have sustained mild TBI and is associated with chronic daily headaches. The prevalence of chronic daily headaches in returning soldiers after a deployment-related concussion is 20% higher than that seen in the general U.S. population.

At the HCoE’s satellite office at the VA CBOC in Newington, CT., Dr. Ashish Adlakha runs what he calls a headache bootcamp. “Officially, it is a multi-disciplinary clinic we run every week to treat patients. I work part-time in the private sector as well. I can confidently say that what we offer here with a multi-disciplinary approach to treating Veterans, with availability to different doctors, treatments and medical devices, is unique to VA. You will not find that level of care in the private sector.”

Four-pronged approach: clinical care, education, research, innovation

HCoE’s strategic plan to treat Veterans suffering from headaches and migraines includes a four-pronged approach in which they utilize clinical care, education, research and innovation to treat Veterans. At its helm is National HCoE Program Director Dr. Jason Sico.

“One of the reasons I love neurology is that our brain, our nervous system, makes us who we are in large part,” Sico said. “When people have headaches, it impairs their quality of life. It can be disabling and prevent them from doing the things they love most, like spending time with family, friends and loved ones. That’s one of the many reasons while I’m drawn to treating patients with headaches.”

Almost half of adults have had a headache at least once within the last year. Migraine is the most common type of headache that led patients to seek medical care. In 2017, approximately 380,000 Veterans sought care in the Veterans Affairs system for a headache disorder.

“When you look at the numbers, for patients under the age of 55, headaches are one of the most disabling neurological conditions in the world, not just the United States. When you look at that age group you could argue that’s when people are at their most productive,” Sico added.

Nineteen headache centers across America

“This is when people are having families and managing careers. When you look at such an important time of life, how could you not want to help those people?” said Sico. “What I really love most about VA’s Headache Center of Excellence program is [that] it really demonstrates VA’s commitment to caring for and serving Veterans living with headache disease.”

The HCoE program started with seven centers. The program has been so successful, there are now 19 centers across the country and at least one in every Veterans Integrated Services Network. Over the next year, Congress has asked VA to grow to at least 28 centers total.

If you suffer from headaches, contact your primary care provider for a consult. You may be referred to a VA HCoE.

By Russ Tippets is a public affairs officer for the New England Healthcare System

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Published on Jun. 29, 2022

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26 Comments

  1. Troy Harding July 1, 2022 at 11:43 pm

    So nice that the VA is helping vets with migraines, if they actually are. Good thing because the VA CAUSED my migraines! They pushed me for several years to get cortisone injections in my lower back, for ruptured discs, and when they finally wore me down I got one. The same day, driving the 125 miles home, I endured a horrible headache, which I later learned was a migraine (something I had NEVER had before!). And the lower back injection made my back pain MUCH WORSE! Ever since the injection I have had migraines (10-25 per month!), making my life hellish. So the VA has basically ruined what’s left of my life.

  2. Sandi Dreer July 1, 2022 at 4:26 pm

    And all my PCP told me to take for my rated migraines was OTC Ibuprofen. This after I had horrible reactions to other medications. My migraines laugh at OTC meds.

  3. Public Affairs July 1, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    VHA Headache Centers of Excellence Program – https://www.polytrauma.va.gov/headache/

    Seventeen Centers as of February 2022:

    Birmingham, AL
    Chicago, IL
    Cleveland, OH
    Columbia, SC
    Greater Los Angeles, CA
    Minneapolis, MN
    New York City, NY
    Orlando, FL
    Palo Alto, CA
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Puget Sound, WA
    Richmond, VA
    Salt Lake City, UT
    San Antonio, TX
    Tampa, FL
    Washington, DC
    West Haven, CT

    • Teresa Williams July 1, 2022 at 9:44 pm

      My Husband i Suffer from major migraines he needs help unfortunately they outsourced to doctors she just kept pushing cook medication that’s not approved by the VA.. waiting to get into see the neurologist it’s a long drawn out process at the Michael DeBakey VA hospital in Houston went to go see his primary care unfortunately we cannot get in because she was so backlogged and never booked because I’ve just returning from maternity leave and the holiday coming up sent private messaging and we’re still at a standstill .. Has done Botox and other injections Release but there is no long-term solutions

  4. Darrell Henson July 1, 2022 at 9:42 am

    So sad to read after going through these treatments with minimal results. I have suffered through these migraines, cluster and muscle tension headaches for 35 years nows due to recorded events in my active duty medical records and after fighting with the VAsince 2009, still no compensation. Debilitating is a huge understatement for the quality of life I have to live with and suicide is not an option for me. The 4 prong approach was obviously another attempt by the VA to treat the symptoms and not the source of the onset. Might work for some, but it’s just just a humiliating joke to me as I write this with a MT headache this morning. The meds they give me, I’m told, are sold at convince stores in Mexico for $1 each, over the counter. Give me a break, PLEASE!!!!!!!!

  5. Brett N Gillet July 1, 2022 at 8:40 am

    Here is a link to all the VISNs in the country. If you find which region you’re in, you can click on it and it’ll direct you appropriately. It may take a little digging, but it’s a start. You may end up having to call the actuall VAMC and asking the TBI or Neuro clinic directly where the closest HCOE is. If you qualify, the VA will probably reimburse your travel expenses if you’re far away.

    HOWEVER, the article is misleading in that there are MANY private practice programs addressing migraine and headache COE similar to what is detailed here. Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, UCLA, and Colorado University all have world renowned programs.

    https://www.va.gov/HEALTH/visns.asp

  6. Steve S June 30, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    I keep hearing what seems like THOUSANDS of Vets are doing BETTER taking CBD in various forms on their own and able to Avoid All VA Meds (at the expense of $100s/month). Does the VA Have or Have Plans to run a CBD study for the possibility of Saving Billions on Medications and Returning Quality Of Life for 10s or 100s of thousands of Veterans???

  7. Sandi Wingfield June 30, 2022 at 11:29 pm

    I have been having debilitating migraines for a number of years. I average at least 5-7 days per week. The migraines have only a few triggers and are hard to control. I just keep sumatriptan injections with me at all times. I have tried Botox once would like to consider that a possible option.
    I use the Topeka VA for care. Thank you

  8. Ralph maresco June 30, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    I have had cluster headaches every day since when I was in Korea I have been diagnosed with cluster headaches I am also 100% disabled from the military

  9. Sikes June 30, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    I just want a doctor that says, “If you say your in pain, I believe you. I am not in your body. I can’t feel what you feel.” Not someone dismissive, disrespectful, or discouraging. These TBI headaches are nicknamed “suicide-headaches” for good reasons! Please take every Veteran SERIOUSLY!

  10. Beverly Phelps June 30, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    I suffer from headaches at least 15-24 days a month. I have been keeping a record since I had a stroke. If I could get real help, it would be great.

  11. Harry G June 30, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    Does Seattle VA have said headache center?

  12. Harry G June 30, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Does Seattle VA have said center?

    • Kevin J Clark July 1, 2022 at 9:20 pm

      My name is Gaylia Clark Washington my dad Kevin Clark is a 64 year old army veteran. In August 2021 dad had a traumatic fall while he was conducting physical therapy at the VA clinic on Jefferson Street in Jacksonville Florida. From the fall he received a massive rotator cuff tear and a massive quad tear in his left knee. He sustained a concussion (mild traumatic brain injury). He has numbness and tingling on the right side of his face and hearing loss in his right ear. On top of that he has severe headaches on certain days and mild on other days. I live in the state of South Carolina and I am in contact with my dad just about every day. I pray that he doesn’t have a massive stroke due to the chronic migraine and headaches. Please Veterans Affairs Administration help my Father he is not same dad that I once knew. I have taken over all his personal matters. He is have a very difficult time adjusting now. Lots of anxiety, depressing and Agitation the majority of the time. Alot of this could have avoided if he was given medical treatment after the fall. He was merely just sent home without any medical treatment. How sad this is for an organizations like the Veterans Administration to allow this to happen and hold no one accountable.

  13. Michael June 30, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    I have TBI related headaches everyday and the VA Dr.s dismiss the out of network treatment that I have been receiving and it actually helps! The VA needs to look at MODERN medicine and not the past. Where are the Headache Centers at and how do I get a Referral? I’m in Michigan

  14. Deborah Vankomen June 30, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    I have daily migraines and headaches. I’ve tried many therapies. Is there a headache center of excellence near me? I’m running out of hope. I’m tired of being poked and prodded. Please help.

    • Steve S June 30, 2022 at 11:37 pm

      Dozens of tries and nothing made any difference at all to my migraines – until my current primary care doc prescribed SUMATRIPTAN. If you haven’t tried that yet, ask for it. If I take it soon enough it can Totally Prevent a migraine from progressing pass a mild inconvenience. If I wait longer it can take 2-3 hours for it to work, but that is better than 12 hours in debilitating pain. It is not a miracle drug though, well it is for me but not everyone, one of my best friends had Tampa VA prescribe it and had zero help at all for him.

  15. MATTHEW Monahan June 30, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    We’re are these headache centers I have mantle cell lymphoma behind my left eye. For the last two years I have headache everyday

  16. Melanie Roberts June 30, 2022 at 8:39 am

    Great article. I wish there were resources attached. I suffer from daily headaches and sometimes they are debilitating. Where are these headache centers? If my primary care physician isn’t aware of the program how can I get help?

  17. James Shoulder June 29, 2022 at 10:53 pm

    I’m Jackson, MS
    I go to the VA midicial center in Hinds country.

  18. Gregorio Morales June 29, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    I REFUSE PETROLEUM PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS! I STRONGLY SUGGEST GODS NATURAL HERBAL PLANT HEALING REMEDIES PLEASE! HERBS ARE MORE EFFECTED WITHOUT SIDE EFFECTS!

  19. James Shoulder June 29, 2022 at 10:49 pm

    I’m been having migraine headache every since I gotten out of military 1974.

  20. Edwin Conde June 29, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    Does Caribbean healt care in Puerto Rico have a headache care clinic ?

  21. David W. Wimer June 29, 2022 at 11:32 am

    Does the Omaha , Ne VA have a headache clinic ?

  22. Ronald Pavao June 29, 2022 at 11:24 am

    Where are centers lpcated?

Comments are closed.

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