The Fibromyalgia Digest
Tell a Friend | Members Area

"What Fibromyalgia Sufferers Need To Say and Do To Get Approved For Disability"



Getting approved for Social Security Disability Income for Fibromyalgia.

Since I started working with the disabled on June 26, 2006, Social Security has awarded disability claims to those who have fibromyalgia.

Even though Social Security has recognized fibromyalgia as a debilitating condition, fibromyalgia is still a misunderstood condition. Because of this, most Social Security Disability representatives don't win disability claims based exclusively on fibromyalgia.

It is common that fibromyalgia sufferers have other conditions, and, if you do, it is critical that you include all of them to build your case.

Let's get back to your fibromyalgia.

For starters, it is important that you understand how the medical community and Social Security Disability guidelines look at fibromyalgia so you can present how your condition(s) limits your ability to work and meet the approval guidelines.

Simply put, this is the best tip I can give you to maximize your chances of winning your disability income.

Regrettably, I have learned of many instances where individuals are medically qualified but fail to communicate this in the correct language. So, they don't get approved and face years of waiting to argue their case in court.


Is Fibromyalgia Considered A Debilitating Condition?

According to The American College of Rheumatology it is.

The American College of Rheumatology reports that fibromyalgia often exists with other conditions like lupus and arthritis. Many individuals report that they believe their fibromyalgia was caused as a result of a major physical injury.

Because the medical community views fibromyalgia to be its own unique condition, it is treated on its own. Curing the symptoms of co-existing conditions (lupus or arthritis) does not guarantee a cure for fibromyalgia.

How To Win Your Social Security
Disability Benefits For Fibromyalgia

Although winning Social Security Disability is complex, understanding the ways a case is evaluated will simplify it:

1. Social Security will compare your medical condition(s) to a medical condition that is outlined in the Social Security listing of impairments (see link below).

2. Because fibromyalgia currently does not have a Social Security "medical listing," it is largely evaluated with a judgment-based assessment on how your symptoms limit or prevent you from working.

A successful case would be one that proves you are not able to do any job in the United States economic system on a regular basis due to the impairments related to your fibromyalgia.

If you are under 50 years old, Social Security defines "work" as an eight-hour a day, five-day week endeavor. For most Social Security Disability cases, the decision shakes down to whether or not SSA believes that you can perform the basic functions of work (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, concentrating, interacting appropriately with people encountered in the workplace, etc.).

For those over 50 (especially if you have had the same job or have been in the same industry doing the same job for many years), the decision is based in large part on whether you can do that specific job anymore.

Regardless of age, proving you can only perform these basic work-related tasks sporadically but not all the time is a key ingredient in proving that you are qualified for Social Security Disability.

3.Where most fail in the application process is that they focus on the conditions they have rather than on the limitations that the conditions cause.

Here is an example of what you need to communicate to prove that your fibromyalgia impacts your life: It inflicts severe pain, flu-like symptoms, loss of sleep, etc., and, as a result, you are not able to meet the basic requirements of any nonphysical, low stress jobs like:
a greeter at Wal-Mart, a ticket taker at a parking garage, an assembly-line hand packer, a surveillance system monitor person, an inspector on an assembly line, or a parking lot attendant.

These jobs can be performed sitting down most of the time, in non-pressured surroundings.

Ask yourself: Would I be able to perform this job five days a week, eight hours a day?

Keep in mind that it doesn't matter that you have not done this type of work before, nor, does it matter that you would be bored or underemployed with this work. And lastly, it doesn't matter that you would not be able to drive or have access to transportation to get you to this job.

Documenting your impairments as thoroughly as possible and focusing on how they limit your ability to work is the key in convincing even the most skeptical that your condition(s) prevents you from doing any job in the United States five days a week, 40 hours a week.

This is a lot of work, and there is no guarantee that you will be victorious. But without preparing your case correctly, you are setting yourself up for denials and years of waiting.

One of the challenges disability representatives report is that a fibromyalgia diagnosis has become general, and many feel it is mis-used specifically. "Fibromyalgia" often becomes the diagnosis when a doctor has been unable to diagnose the real source of a patient's complaints, thereby giving fibromyalgia a reputation of a "catch-all" diagnosis. This "catch-all" reputation has caused a lot of the skepticism behind Social Security Disability cases.

Summary: How To Build A Strong Case To
Win Your Disability For Fibromyalgia

To summarize, the good news is that well-documented cases do get approved.

Clearly communicate how your conditions limit your ability to work.
The common mistake of Social Security Disability applicants is they focus on describing their conditions in terms of how terrible they feel. Regrettably, Social Security does not award disability on this merit.

I hope what you take away from this is that it is not about the pain you are in, but it is how pain causes limitations like those below that prevent you from doing any job:

  • Can't sit for more than 20 minutes,
  • Can't stand for more than 30 minutes,
  • Can't do a sink full of dishes from a dinner for two without taking two to three breaks,
  • Feel like you have the flu 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Take three times longer to perform household tasks like preparing dinner, washing dishes, folding clothes, sweeping a 10 x 10 floor, and
  • Sleep 15 hours a day and still are tired.

4.Fibromyalgia sufferers often have other medical problems that are important to to be diagnosed, treated, and added to your disability case.

Fibromyalgia sufferers often have memory retention issues, so it is suggested that you do not try to commit to memory your conditions and the pain caused by them. Keep a daily pain journal that describes all of your symptoms.It is a simple way to keep track of your conditions and pain and is a great investment.

The American College of Rheumatology has documented other symptoms that exist with fibromyalgia in a study showing that 100% of the people with fibromyalgia suffer from muscle pain.

The list below is the percentage of those in the study who also described other medical symptoms.

  • fatigue (96%)
  • difficulty sleeping (86%)
  • joint pain (72%)
  • headaches (60%),
  • RLS - restless leg syndrome (56%)
  • numbness and tingling in hands and feet (52%)
  • memory retention issues (46%)
  • leg cramps (42%)
  • decreased concentration (41%)
  • nervousness (32%)
  • depression (20%)

Note: Depression and anxiety commonly co-exist with fibromyalgia. The cause is commonly attributed to pain and lifestyle changes. After all, who is going to be happy about not feeling well and being out of work.

If this is you or you think it may be you, it's important that these conditions be appropriately diagnosed and you have treatment by a mental-health professional, such as a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist, because it can strengthen your case.

If you have any of these conditions, it's crucial to describe in detail the symptoms you have in your application and update your journal.
This will be especially helpful if you have to go in front of a judge for a hearing, because you'll be asked questions designed to explain all of your severe medical symptoms.

Often fibromyalgia sufferers become accustomed to fatigue, headaches, and depression and learn to live in harmony with them. It is important not to overlook this because these symptoms could be connected with your fibromyalgia.

5.The doctor who diagnoses your fibromyalgia is another key ingredient in your case. A diagnosis for fibromyalgia from your primary care physician is not as strong as one from a specialist.

So, the point here is that your case is much stronger and stands a better chance if you are treated by a specialist, often a rheumatologist, in addition to your primary care doctor.

My goal in researching fibromyalgia and disability and providing you with this Free Fibromyalgia Digest is to give you the information and contacts to cope with your condition and weave through the maze of disability-related issues.



Thanks so very much for putting your faith in me to help you cope with Fibromyalgia and Disability!

Sincerely, Brian Therrien

Fibromyalgia And Social Security Disability

This letter written by Brian Therrien on behalf
of Disability Solution House, Inc.