Fibromyalgia and Social Security Disability BenefitsFibromyalgia is a chronic condition which can cause stiffness and tenderness of the muscles, tendons, and joints. Some claimants with fibromyalgia also experience chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression. Others have difficulty sleeping.
Unlike other diseases which cause tissue inflammation, fibromyalgia is not associated with any accompanying damage to other organs or deformities. Conditions which do cause body organ damage can include systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and polymyositis.
Researchers are still unclear of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but it is most prevalent in women (over 80%) between the ages of 35 and 55. It is estimated that over 4% of the U.S. population has fibromyalgia.
Does the SSA consider Fibromyalgia disabling?
The Social Security Administration uses two different methods to determine if a claimant is disabled: meeting a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments or through a medical vocational allowance.
The SSA maintains a listing of impairments which they consider automatically disabling. This list can be found by at www.ssa.gov and is informally known as the SSA Blue Book. At this time, the SSA does not have a listing for Fibromyalgia.
Proving Fibromyalgia is disabling through a medical vocational allowance
Claimants who cannot meet a listing or if there is not listing, will have to prove that their fibromyalgia is so severe that they cannot work. The problem is that many claimants who have this condition can work if they adequately control their stress and pain and their boss is willing to make a few modifications.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network has offered several suggestions for employers to consider if an employee has this condition: provide written job instructions when possible, allow flexible work hours, allow a self-paced workload, allow periodic rest periods to reorient, minimize distractions, reduce job stress, remind the employee of important deadlines and meetings, develop strategies to deal with work problems before they arise and reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress.
Given the high rate of unemployment and the excessive pool of job candidates willing to work, the amount of modifications an employer may be willing to make for an employee may be limited.
Hiring a Disability Lawyer
So whats the bottom line? Most fibromyalgia claims are won if the claimant has this condition in conjunction with other diagnosis.
For instance, claimants who have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia and degenerative disc disease will have a better chance of winning SSDI or SSI benefits. Why? Because as the SSA is evaluating their condition they will accept that fibromyalgia could be a plausible explanation for the symptoms of other more proven and easily diagnosed conditions. This can be especially true if fibromyalgia is diagnosed by an Orthopedist or Rheumatologist.
Whether you have fibromyalgia by itself or in conjunction with another condition, the best way to win benefits for this condition is to hire a disability lawyer and begin to gather evidence of functional limitations for work. For instance, find medical evidence that proves the following:
Your symptoms are so severe that you have difficulty performing daily activities
The location, duration, intensity and frequency of pain does not allow you to work
Side effects of any medication being taken, as well as the type of medication and the dosage taken makes it dangerous for you to work
You have followed all of the medical recommendations suggested by your doctors but you continue to have severe pain or limitations to work
You have an inability to due basic work activities: lift weight, push or pull objects, stand, sit or walk for extended periods of time