How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
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How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
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How to get disability with Fibromyalgia


Can I get disability with Fibromyalgia?

Author:Tim Moore, former Disability Examiner

Speaking as a former disability examiner, yes, you can be approved for disability with fibromyalgia. This happens routinely. However, it can be difficult for a couple reasons.

Reason 1: There is no listing in the Blue book, the Social Security list of impairments. As such, you can only be approved by showing that you cannot do your past work, or any other work, based on your age, education, work skills, and the limitations caused by your condition. This is a medical vocational allowance.

Reason 2: Often, a person's medical records will not provide the information Social Security needs to approve a claim. So let's discuss what a disability examiner or a judge at a hearing is looking for.

How does Social Security evaluate a Fibromyalgia claim?

In 2012, Social Security issued ruling SSR 12-2p, a guide for how fibromyalgia is evaluated.

Per the ruling, your diagnosis is valid if you have had fibromyalgia for at least three months, and it must come from a licensed physician. But a diagnosis is not enough. Your doctor must have reviewed your medical history and examined you specifically, testing for positive tender points (trigger points). The ruling also states that Social Security will review your doctor's records to determine if the diagnosis and medical history are consistent.

This means getting a diagnosis from a general doctor may not be that helpful. So what makes a fibromyalgia disability claim successful?

How do I qualify for disability with Fibromyalgia?

To qualify for disability with fibromyalgia or any medical condition, you'll need to file your claim and provide detailed information on your medical history and work history. This is so Social Security can properly assess your work capacity and compare it to the demands of your past work.

Since there is no listing for fibromyalgia, you'll need to prove that your condition causes enough functional limitations to rule out your ability to work and earn a substantial and gainful income. Fundamentally, this is proven through your medical records. And so for fibromyalgia you should do the following:

Get a fibromyalgia diagnosis from a pain specialist

Ideally, your diagnosis should be made by a pain specialist, or at least a doctor who knows how to conduct the physical exam for the 18 fibromyalgia trigger points on the body. Note: If a person has 11 or more of those trigger points, their fibromyalgia diagnosis is considered to be valid by the Social Security Administration.

Make sure you have been seen recently by a doctor when you apply

A disability examiner cannot approve a disability claim unless there is recent evidence (not older than 90 days) in the file. So make sure you are seen in this timeframe before you apply. If you don't have recent evidence in your file, Social Security will send you to a medical exam to obtain evidence. This is called a consultative examination, or a a CE, and they will schedule and pay for it.

How do I improve the chances of winning a Fibromyalgia disability case?

There are several things you can do to improve the chances of being approved.

To get disability, list all your conditions when you apply

Even if you are applying based on fibromyalgia, list all your conditions. Why? To determine if you lack the ability to work, Social Security needs to consider everything that is wrong with you, in addition to fibromyalgia. The more conditions and symptoms they know about, the more physical and mental limitations they may consider you to have, making it more likely for you to be awarded benefits.

List a condition even if you haven't been treated for it

Sometimes, people will not put a medical issue on a disability claim if they've never seen a doctor for it. This is a mistake. If you have depression, for example, list it even if you haven't received treatment. A combination of both physical and mental conditions can significantly reduce your ability to work in the eyes of the Social Security Administration.

Getting disability for multiple conditions

As a disability examiner, I saw that individuals who were approved for fibromyalgia usually had more than one medical condition, and they often had both physical and mental impairments. For example, Fibromyalgia claims typically involve pain, "fibrofog", anxiety or depression, and some type of musculoskeletal problem.

Common situations include a person with fibromyalgia, arthritis, and depression. Or someone with fibromyalgia, anxiety, and degenerative disc disease.

What happens if I was never treated for a certain condition?

If you put in your claim, but haven't been treated for it, you will be sent to a consultative examination. In the case of fibro fog that causes concentration and attention problems or memory impairment, Social Security may send you to a Wechsler Memory Scale to test your memory functions. Or, if you have depression, you may be sent to a mental status exam, or psychiatric exam. All of these exams will add more evidence to your claim.

Talk to your doctor

There are two things you may wish to discuss with your doctor that can potentially help your case. First, when you see your doctor, mention your symptoms and how the condition affects your daily activities. Social Security considers how your condition affects your ADLs, activities of daily living and your case is stronger when your doctor notates this in your records.

Getting a form from your doctor

Second, at some point you may ask your doctor to provide a statement for your case. This is called a medical source statement or residual functional capacity form (RFC), and a doctor can use it to explain how your condition limits your ability to do things. These forms are often a check-off list and will ask how long you can sit, or how much weight you can carry, etc. If you have a Social Security hearing coming up, your attorney will try to get a statement from one, or more, of your doctors to help win your case.

Information about fibromyalgia you may not have known

Fibromyalgia affects two to four percent of the general population. It affects women far more that men and is often associated with other conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, anxiety, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression. In addition to other co-morbid mental conditions, some people have a cognitive dysfunction commonly known as brain fog, or fibrofog. Fibro fog may include problems with concentration and/or short and long term memory.

Despite the fact that medical studies conducted over the past thirty years indicate fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system of an unknown etiology that is associated with mental conditions rather than being a stand-alone mental disease or disorder, fibromyalgia is now recognized as a disease in its own right by the ICD, or International Classification of diseases.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related Body System Impairments:

Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Facts about Chronic fatigue and Filing for Disability
Diagnosed with cfs and fm, would i be eligible for SSD?
Fibromyalgia, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Chronic Fatigue, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Getting a Disability Lawyer in New York
If you apply for disability in New York
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in New York

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.