Fibromyalgia is an intractable illness, causing its victims chronic pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, mental confusion, memory problems and more. Why is it so hard then, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you have this disease? This is what you should know (and how to get approved).
Fibromyalgia Is Finally Being Treated Seriously By Social Security
Prior to 2012, Social Security really had no guidelines for its disability examiners when it came to fibromyalgia claims. For the most part, fibromyalgia was often treated as a "catch-all" diagnosis by doctors unable to find anything medically wrong with patients who complained of symptoms like chronic pain, fatigue, and mental confusion.
Unless the disability claimant had another condition like lupus or arthritis that could be connected to the fibromyalgia, the claimants were often treated as if they were faking (sometimes by disability examiners and doctors alike, sadly).
The problem is that the condition is hard to document - there's no definitive test to "prove" fibromyalgia. The diagnosis relies heavily on subjective testing by the treating physician and self-reporting of symptoms by patients. It's only in recent years that medical studies have finally determined that fibromyalgia is a disorder affecting the brain and neurological system (though it's still unknown exactly what causes it or how to treat it).
You Can Improve Your Chances Of Being Approved By Taking Certain Steps
Disability examiners are looking for specific things when evaluating your claim for fibromyalgia. You can increase your chances of being approved for disability due to fibromyalgia if you take certain steps, because it helps build documentation of your ongoing condition. Social Security looks for:
- evidence of chronic pain that's lasted 3 months or longer.
- evidence that objective tests (like MRIs) have ruled out other conditions (like arthritis) as a cause of the symptoms.
- tender points at 11 or more of the 18 tested areas, both above and below the waist and on both sides of the body.
- at least six symptoms of the disease, including: fatigue, impaired or non-restorative sleep, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, anxiety, and memory or cognitive impairments.
It's also important that you get your diagnosis confirmed by the "right" kind of doctor. While fibromyalgia is now understood to be a neurological disorder, rheumatologists usually diagnose and treat the condition. Because they are considered experts on fibromyalgia, a diagnosis from a rheumatologist is going to carry more weight than a diagnosis from your primary care physician.
In addition, make sure that you discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor, and seek additional treatment for the symptoms where available. You need to demonstrate to your doctor that the symptoms are disrupting your life and that you are trying to find a way to control them.
Keep in mind that, in some cases, a symptom of fibromyalgia can actually be considered a disorder in its own right. For example, IBS is a significant disorder on its own, and you should list it as a separate medical condition when filing your disability claim. That way, the disability examiner will have to consider the condition as an additional limiting factor when deciding your claim.
Also, seek treatment for the mental and psychological aspects of the disorder. Medical studies show that post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, extreme stress, and depression are connected to fibromyalgia. Getting therapy or antidepressants can help control some of the symptoms, plus demonstrate the reality of them when viewed by the medical examiner.
Have you suffered from fibromyalgia and its symptoms for a long time now? You may have even previously been denied disability benefits for your condition, especially if your claim was prior to 2012. If so, talk to a disability attorney today about your claim. Winning your case is far more possible now than it ever was before!Share