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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and SSA Disability Benefits

What is CFS?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is extreme exhaustion which does not improve with sleep, and which according to the Mayo clinic, “cannot be explained by any other underlying medical condition.”

Claimants with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may also have symptoms which cause muscle pain, weakness, lack of concentration, difficulty sleeping, headaches, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes and loss of energy.

Scientists debate the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some believe it may be caused by stress, immune system disorders, hormonal imbalances or viral infections. Other researchers believe the condition can be linked to other conditions such as Lyme disease or Epstein-Barr. The common thought is that claimants with this condition may have an overactive immune system which thinks it is constantly fighting an infection, causing reduced energy.

Claimants with chronic fatigue syndrome should make sure they get adequate medical care and undergo the proper testing to rule out other physical conditions. Although there is not a cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome there are treatments that can eliminate some of the symptoms. This condition is most common in women ages forty to fifty. Inactivity and obesity may also increase the risk of this condition.

Winning SSDI or SSI for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

The Social Security Administration agrees that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a legitimate medically determinable impairment, but to win SSI or SSDI benefits the claimants must have medical signs and laboratory findings.

The SSA states that the claimant’s condition must have “prolonged fatigue that lasts 6 months or more and that results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities. In accordance with criteria established by the CDC, a physician should make a diagnosis of CFS "only after alternative medical and psychiatric causes of chronic fatiguing illness have been excluded" (Annals of Internal Medicine, 121:953-9, 1994).”

Additionally, the SSA would expect the claimant to experience four or more of the following symptoms (these symptoms must have “persisted or recurred” for at least 6 months).

  1. Short-term memory or concentration loss which has reduced the claimant’s ability to perform their job or which has interrupted their educational social or personal activities.

  2. Sore throat

  3. Muscle pain

  4. Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes

  5. Multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness

  6. Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity

  7. Unrefreshing sleep

  8. Postexertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours


The Social Security Administration expects that these symptoms can be validated through medical signs and laboratory findings.

Claimants will need to have medical documentation which proves that they do not have the ability to continue to work. Make sure you have medical documentation of when your symptoms began, what makes them worse, how your symptoms limit your ability to work, and the treatment options you have tried to eliminate your symptoms.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

Due to the complexity of this condition and the types of medical documentation you will need to prove your SSI or SSDI case it may be a good idea to contact a disability lawyer who has had experience winning SSI or SSDI for claimants with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
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