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Receiving Disability Benefits for Fibromyalgia
If you have fibromyalgia, you are very aware of how debilitating the condition can be and may wonder whether you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If your fibromyalgia significantly affects your ability to work and earn a living, as well as your day-to-day activities, you could be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA has strict requirements for both physical and mental impairments, using impairment listings to qualify applicants. Fibromyalgia and disability benefits can go hand-in-hand when you have an experienced SS disability attorney assisting you with your application and/or the appeals process.
Only about a third of all initial applicants receive disability benefits. There are four levels of appeal following a denial of your SS disability application. This means you have four more chances to have your fibromyalgia and disability benefits claim approved. Carmichael Law Group focuses exclusively on Social Security disability benefits. We will work closely with you to ensure you receive the benefits you need and deserve and believe our experience will benefit your claim.
At Carmichael Law Group we know how important the “storytelling” really is. This means that we know how to tell your story in a way that clearly shows the adverse impact your condition has had on your life and on your ability to work. We will ensure you meet the five-step review process, then add your story, told in a way that gives you every advantage when being considered for disability benefits.
Social Security does not pay for partial disability or short-term disability—only total disability. SSA determines whether you are disabled by asking the following five questions:
- Are you currently working? If you are working, and you are consistently making more than $1,310 per month, you will probably not be considered disabled.
- Does your disability prevent you from performing basic work-related activities (walking, standing, sitting, remembering)? In short, is your condition considered “severe?”
- Does your disabling medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listing found in the Blue Book list of medical conditions?
- Are you able to do the work you did prior to your disability?
- Can you make an adjustment to do any other type of work?
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by crushing fatigue, pain, sleep issues, difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”), and mood issues. While those with anxiety, depression, or PTSD are more likely to develop fibromyalgia, the medical community is not sure of the exact cause. Pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia, stemming from tender points on the body, usually around the neck, shoulders, back, elbows, chest, hips, and knees. While the pain can often feel as though it is originating from the joints, fibromyalgia is not joint pain. The pain of fibromyalgia also varies significantly from one person to another. Some report the pain as a deep ache, others report a burning sensation.
The pain of fibromyalgia can cause many sufferers to have difficulty sleeping as their sleep cycle is constantly interrupted by pain. Difficulty concentrating, as a symptom of fibromyalgia, is sometimes known as “fibro fog.” While the cause of fibromyalgia is not known, genetics, disease, trauma, illness, and repetitive injuries can contribute to the disorder. Women tend to be at a higher risk for fibromyalgia as are those with other rheumatic conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Fibromyalgia may have a genetic component, as those with a family history of fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the disorder. Fibromyalgia cannot be diagnosed via blood and urine tests, imaging tests, or physical exams, although these results can rule out other conditions. Treatment is generally limited to medication and self-care. Medications can include muscle relaxants, sleep aids, pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, and anti-depressants.
Is Fibromyalgia a Disability Under Social Security Disability Rules?
Unfortunately, while fibromyalgia is a very real disease, there is no actual disability listing for the disorder. There is, however, a ruling from the SSA that gives necessary guidance to ALJ’s and disability claims examiners when fibromyalgia is in question. As a result, while most fibromyalgia applicants were once categorially denied, this ruling has ensured that those filing for disability because of a fibromyalgia diagnosis will have a much fairer ruling.
To be successful with your fibromyalgia and disability benefits claim, your medical records must be impeccably documented and up-to-date. A comprehensive report from a rheumatologist can help confirm your fibromyalgia symptoms and having results from a trigger-point test are vital. Additionally, your prior co-workers and family members can provide statements that support your diagnosis.
The reason fibromyalgia can be so difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms are largely subjective plus the symptoms vary significantly from person to person. As with any disorder, you must be able to prove you have a severe, medically determinable impairment and that your impairment significantly interferes with your ability to work and your day-to-day activities.
Providing Proof for Fibromyalgia and Disability Benefits
For fibromyalgia to be considered a medically determinable impairment, you must have:
- Chronic, widespread pain, particularly in the chest, back, and neck and
- A doctor must have ruled out other diseases via lab tests and x-rays, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and hypothyroidism.
Additionally, you must have at least one of the following:
- Non-restorative sleep
- Severe fatigue
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Memory issues
- Cognitive issues
- Brain fog or “fibro” fog
- Chronic headache
- Muscle weakness
- Tender points in at least 11 of 18 tender point areas of the body
Your claims examiner will carefully review your medical records to see if they include evidence of the above, focusing on your complaints related to pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties, along with lab tests and trigger point testing results. Your doctor may be questioned about your ability to function with your fibromyalgia, the extent and duration of your fibromyalgia-related impairments, the treatments you have tried, and how long the doctor expects your ability to function to continue to be limited.
Getting Help with Your Fibromyalgia and Disability Benefits from Carmichael Law Group
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you are acutely aware of how difficult day-to-day life—not to mention work—can really be. At Carmichael Law Group, we want to help you get the Social Security disability benefits you need and deserve. We have significant resources at our disposal that we will use on your behalf. When you are unable to work and make a living as a result of your fibromyalgia we will fight for your rights and for your future by helping you obtain SS disability benefits. Contact Carmichael Law Group today.