Can you get disability for Chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia?

Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are two conditions for which the social security administration does not have a listing in its impairment listing manual. For anyone not familiar with the "blue book", this is a directory of medical conditions for which social security has designated specific approval criteria.

Can you still be approved for disability on the basis of a condition that is not listed in the manual? Yes, in fact, most medical conditions are not listed in the manual. For an individual who is filing for disability on the basis of a non-listed impairment, to be approved it must be found that the individual's impairment is:

1. Severe.

2. And has prevented, or will prevent them from working (at the job they did last, at a job they've done in the past, or at any suitable form of "other" work) for at least 12 months.

Getting approved for Social Security Disability or ssi on the basis of a non-listed impairment is known as a medical vocational allowance and this is actually how most claimants for disability benefits get approved.

Is it harder to get approved for disability benefits on the basis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia? Well, yes and no. In one sense, it's only as dificult to get approved for one of these conditions as it is to get approved for any other condition, for example rheumatoid arthritis or MS. However, patients with CFIDS or FMS may face obstacles that do not "pop up" with other conditions.

1. Though more information is continually coming forward as to the nature and possible causes of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, there is still no definable cause for either condition (which is why both conditions are termed as "syndromes").

2. Despite more information becoming available about CFIDS and fibromyalgia, some physicians give little credence to either condition and may even be dismissive in their attitudes.

3. Disability examiners, who have no real medical training are also sometimes dismissive of cases involving fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, at times "mentally linking" both conditions with depression, and, because of this, downplaying the significance of the functional limitations that result from CFIDS or FMS.

Of course, such thinking is illogical and faulty for at least a couple of reasons. For one thing, depression is evaluated separately on its own. Secondly, many disability applicants with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, cancer, and other conditions, are also treated for depression, or have indications of depression in the notes of the physicians who treat them.

In other words, the fact that a claimant has depression, or signs of depression, should in no way, shape, or form, diminish any consideration of how a claimant's ability to work has been limited by either chronic fatigue or fibromylagia. Depression and CFIDS and FMS may coincide, but depression is distinctly separate from either impairment.

It's been speculated that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue may be autoimmune disorders. Whether this is true or not may be determined over time. However, it is interesting to note that FMS and CFIDS are both largely confined to the industrialized world.

Most of the industrialized world, of course, is coincidental to northern latitudes. And it is within the populations living in such geographical areas that you see a higher incidence of certain autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and ankylosing spondylitis. And, regarding those conditions, researchers now wonder if viral and bacterial agents, unique to those regions, may provide a "triggering mechanism" for their onset.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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