Fibromyalgia causes long-term pain that can affect the whole body. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you know that the symptoms you experience can cause severe impairments that may make working impossible. This may entitle you to disability benefits from Social Security.
The nature of fibromyalgia may make it difficult to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Unfortunately, it is difficult to conclusively diagnose the condition because there are no specific medical tests for it. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) established guidelines for approving fibromyalgia claims in July 2012, qualifying for benefits remains an uphill battle for many deserving applicants.
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia that makes it impossible to work, it is important to speak with an experienced disability lawyer who can help you maximize your chances of making a successful claim for SSD.
Contact us now to learn more about how we can help and get answers to questions such as:
- How can I qualify for SSD benefits based on my disabling fibromyalgia?
- What should I do if my SSD claim is denied?
- Can a disability attorney help me get benefits because of my fibromyalgia?
Qualifying for SSD Benefits for Fibromyalgia
In guidelines issued in July 2012, the SSA established rules for when fibromyalgia may be considered a medically determinable impairment (MDI). In order to qualify for benefits, you must have:
- Evidence of chronic body-wide pain, including pain affecting the neck, chest and/or back.
- Evidence demonstrating your doctor has ruled out other medical problems that could cause your symptoms, including multiple sclerosis, lupus and hypothyroidism. This evidence may include lab tests and treatment notes. It is required because fibromyalgia is generally diagnosed by the process of elimination.
You also must have at least one of the following:
- Tender point sites in at least 11 of the 18 different tender point areas found throughout the body. The 18 tender points include the occiput (base of the skull), the low cervical spine, the lateral epicondyle, and the gluteal, among other areas. The SSA has a complete listing of the tender points. The sensitivity must occur on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist.
- Repeated manifestations of at least six or more common fibromyalgia symptoms such as non-restorative sleep, fatigue, headaches, cognitive and memory problems, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, dizziness, depression or anxiety.
It is essential to have comprehensive medical records showing that you exhibit the required symptoms of fibromyalgia. The SSA scrutinizes these applications carefully, and may also require you to submit to an independent medical exam.
Appealing a Denied Claim for SSD Benefits for Fibromyalgia
Because many SSD claims are denied at first, it is important to understand the appeals process. The SSA has four levels of appeals, including:
- Request for reconsideration. A different disability claims examiner will take another look at your information after an initial denial. You can provide additional medical records and details to strengthen your claim.
- Benefits hearing. You will have a chance to argue at a hearing why you should be entitled to benefits. You should have a lawyer, and your attorney can help you find expert witnesses to testify on your behalf about how fibromyalgia prevents you from earning a living.
- Administrative appeal. This is the last level of appeal within the Social Security administrative system. The actions taken at the hearing will be evaluated to determine if the laws were applied correctly.
- Appeal to federal court. Past decisions on your case will be evaluated by a federal judge to determine if the proper actions were taken.
You should have an experienced disability benefits lawyer representing you at every stage of the appeals process so you can have the best chance of successfully getting the benefits you need and deserve.
Our Lawyers Help Fibromyalgia Patients Get the Benefits They Need
Like most SSD applicants, you may have your benefits claim initially denied and need to go through the appeals process. Although the application and appeals process for SSD benefits may seem as though it is geared toward discouraging applicants, do not give up even if your initial application was rejected.