Is it hard to receive Social Security disability for fibromyalgia?

Yes, it can be challenging to qualify for the Social Security disability benefits you deserve if you have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is the second most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. People with fibromyalgia suffer significant muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work. Yet, fibromyalgia isn’t always well understood and it can be hard to get the benefits you deserve.

The Social Security Administration Used to Deny Benefits for Many Fibromyalgia Sufferers

In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied most disability applications for fibromyalgia. In part, this was because of conflicts within the medical community. While fibromyalgia certainly can be debilitating, the label “fibromyalgia” refers to a list of Fibromyalgia Paperwork Under a Magnifying Glasssymptoms that can vary from person to person. Many family doctors used fibromyalgia as a catch-all diagnosis when no cause for symptoms could be found.

Accordingly, disability examiners were not sure how to classify the disorder. Applications were more likely to be approved if the applicant had a second diagnosis, especially a musculoskeletal disability such as rheumatoid arthritis or degenerative disc disease.

Now, fibromyalgia is better understood, and more people are able to get the Social Security disability benefits they need.

Social Security Disability Eligibility for Fibromyalgia

In 2012, the Social Security Administration issued a ruling allowing fibromyalgia to be a medically determinable impairment (MDI) if the applicant meets certain conditions. Specifically:

  • There must be medical documentation of widespread chronic pain, including back, neck, or chest pain. 
  • The doctor must rule out other diseases that may cause the same symptoms.

Additionally, one of the following must be true and well-documented. The applicant must experience:

  • Pain in at least 11 of 18 possible tender point areas of the body. The tender points must occur on both sides of the body. There must be tender points both above and below the waist.
  • A minimum of six fibromyalgia symptoms, including repeated occurrences of fatigue, non-restorative sleep, cognitive or memory problems, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches, muscle weakness, seizures, dizziness, Raynaud’s phenomenon, or other symptoms.

Tips for a Successful Social Security Disability Application

Every Social Security disability applicant, including those applying with fibromyalgia, must submit a convincing application to get the benefits they deserve. If you apply for benefits, you can improve your chances of success by submitting:

  • Accurate medical reports. Your Social Security disability determination will be based primarily on your medical records. You should know what those records say. Make sure your records list your symptoms, your treatment plan, and your diagnosis.
  • Documentation of severity. Merely claiming that you have the disorder isn’t enough. You must have documented proof showing how badly the disorder affects your everyday life and how it keeps you from working.
  • Signed documentation from a rheumatologist (specialized doctor in joint and tissue pain). The SSA is more inclined to consider a fibromyalgia claim if a specialist has verified the disorder.
  • A straightforward explanation of how your case qualifies for disability. Personal accounts of pain and inabilities can help shed light on why you need disability benefits as a result of being unable to work.

You may also seek legal representation. An experienced disability attorney can increase your chances of approval by gathering the necessary documentation, clearly stating your case to the SSA, and appealing any disability denials.

Speak to a Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Social Security disability can provide you with monthly benefits if fibromyalgia prevents you from working. You’ve paid into the Social Security system and you deserve to receive these benefits if you can’t work because of a disability that is expected to last 12 months or longer.

We encourage you to contact our experienced Massachusetts disability lawyers before you file your initial disability claim. We will ensure that your application is accurate, complete, honest, and easy to understand. We know how to argue your case, and we won’t rest until you get the Social Security disability benefits you deserve. Contact Keefe Disability Law now for a free consultation and review of your claim. We’re waiting to help you!

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer