Social Security Disability benefits for fibromyalgia
On behalf of David Dopkin
The medical background
As you may know, you are entitled to Social Security disability benefits if you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from holding a job. There are many medical conditions that are considered “disabling,” such as cancer and arthritis. But did you know that a disease suffered by many persons, fibromyalgia , can also be such a disabling condition?
First of all, what exactly is fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia can be defined as a disorder with the following characteristics: Fatigue, musculoskeletal pain which is widespread, and mood issues. It is believed that painful sensations are amplified by fibromyalgia, which affects the processing of pain signals by the brain. Surgery, trauma, stress, or infection can serve as a triggering event, although sometimes symptoms accumulate over the years without a known triggering event.
Fibromyalgia is not uncommon. In fact, according to the Social Security Benefits Center, at least 12 million people in the United States suffer from it, perhaps as many as 2 percent of the entire population. Usually, fibromyalgia is a condition which women from 25 to 60 develop, although men also have the condition.
In addition to the pain symptoms mentioned above, depression and anxiety are also caused sometimes. Some people also suffer from a cognitive dysfunction known as “brain fog,” which may include concentration and memory problems. If the symptoms are severe enough, the person affected may be unable to work and may therefore consider applying for disability benefits.
Filing for benefits
If you file for benefits, you should first know that fibromyalgia may be difficult to diagnose, as there does not exist a laboratory test to exclude or confirm the condition. The doctor that provides your diagnosis will be relying on medical history, physical exams and testing to exclude other causes. Securing a diagnosis is critical, but it is important to remember that a diagnosis provided by a generalist or a family doctor does not carry the weight of a diagnosis provided by an orthopedist or rheumatologist.
If you have a diagnosis, the next thing to know is that the Social Security impairments listing of qualifying conditions does not include fibromyalgia. It is therefore common that an initial claim based on fibromyalgia is denied, but it should be pointed out that appeals of such denials are often successful. Also it will be easier to get your claim approved if it is based on a medical diagnosis that goes along with the fibromyalgia diagnosis.
In addition to medical information, there are some important practical things to remember when filing for benefits. Benefits are not awarded simply on the basis of your condition, but on the basis that your condition is the cause of functional limitations, limitations that make it not possible to engage in work activity. It is therefore important to present a history that documents the limitations caused by your condition.
The Social Security Administration will determine the restrictions caused by your “residual functional capacity” (that is, what you can do despite limitations imposed by your condition of fibromyalgia) and if the RFC then prevents your ability to perform your past jobs (or any job). If the SSA makes such a determination as to job performance, disability benefits may be approved.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, to the extent that you have widespread pain, pain to the point of being unable to work, you should immediately contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can look at the medical facts behind your condition, investigate your work history, and make a determination whether your situation may support a claim for disability benefits.