Is fibromyalgia causing you to experience debilitating pain throughout your body along with fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, or moments of memory loss? Are your symptoms preventing you from working full time? If so, you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This article discusses receiving disability benefits for fibromyalgia in Detroit.
Fibromyalgia and Its Symptoms
Fibromyalgia (aka fibromyositis, fibrositis, or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)) is a disorder or chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness in your musculoskeletal tissues (muscles, joints, tendons, and soft tissues). Fibromyalgia pain can also be accompanied by:
- Cognitive difficulties that impair your ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks. You may also experience memory issues, called “fibro fog.”
- Digestive problems
- Pain or cramping in the lower abdomen
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Raynaud’s phenomenon – narrowing of arteries that supply blood to the skin, limiting blood circulation to certain body parts such as fingers, toes, nose and ears.
- Muscle weakness
- Non-restorative sleep
Symptoms may begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms may gradually accumulate over time with no triggering event. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomadibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression and anxiety.
How Is Fibromyalgia Treated?
Treatment for your fibromyalgia is largely based on experimentation. Many physicians prescribe a combination of treatments, including physical therapy, exercise, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication to manage your symptoms.
How Do I Prove That My Fibromyalgia Is A Medically Determinable Impairment?
You must have a “medically determinable impairment” to qualify for disability benefits. For your fibromyalgia to constitute a “medically determinable impairment,” these criteria must be met:
- A history of widespread pain – the pain is in all quadrants of the body and has lasted for at least three months.
- Tenderness and pain in at least 11 of the 18 tender point sites on your body, which can be determined when your treating physician palpitates the area; or,
- Repeated occurrences of six or more fibromyalgia symptoms, signs, or co-occurring conditions, such as fatigue, fibro fog, non-restorative sleep, depression, anxiety, etc.
- Evidence that other disorders that could cause these symptoms or signs were ruled out.
Even if your fibromyalgia meets these requirements, you have more to prove before qualifying for benefits. You still must prove that your fibromyalgia prevents you from “engag[ing] in any substantial gainful activity (SGA),” or work, for at least 12 months.
How Do I Prove My Fibromyalgia Is Disabling?
While fibromyalgia-only claims for disability benefits are challenging cases to win, knowledgeable Detroit disability benefits attorneys suggests doing the following to improve your chances:
- Proper fibromyalgia diagnosis and treatment from a rheumatologist. Physicians sometimes diagnose patients with fibromyalgia as a “catch-all” diagnosis when their patients suffer from unexplained chronic pain. A rheumatologist is a licensed medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of certain musculoskeletal disease, including fibromyalgia, and systemic autoimmune conditions commonly referred to as rheumatic diseases. You should treat with a rheumatologist because rheumatologists have expert knowledge regarding the medically acceptable techniques to diagnose fibromyalgia, which should include trigger-point and laboratory testing to rule out other conditions.
- Complete relevant medical records. Although you will provide the SSA with authorizations to obtain your medical records, we often find that claims are denied because the SSA received incomplete medical records. Usually, records are incomplete because SSA was unable to obtain all your records or the medical facility did not timely return SSA’s inquiries regarding your condition and treatment. Thus, it is always advantageous to provide the SSA with your complete medical records relevant to your impairment.
- Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Form. The most important aspect the SSA is concerned about is whether you can or cannot work. It is important for them to know your limitations to determine whether your limitations prevent you from performing your work. Your RFC is “the most you can still do despite your [physical and mental] limitations” that are caused by your impairment and related symptoms. Code of Federal Regulations 404.1545(a). Your attorney will ask your rheumatologist to fill out an RFC form or to opine about your limitations in the following areas:
- Length of time you can sit or stand in conjunction with your need to shift positions.
- Distance you can walk without taking a break.
- Weight you can carry, lift, push or pull.
- Height you can reach.
- How low you can bend, stoop or crouch.
- If and distance you can crawl.
- Whether you can consistently get to work on time.
- How often you can be expected to miss work because of your condition.
Your rheumatologist should also opine about any accommodations you require, such as your need to recline, lie down, elevate your legs, or take unscheduled breaks during a typical workday.
- Journal or Diary. Recording your mental and physical symptoms daily can:
- Help your physician make the proper diagnosis and assist in optimizing your treatment regime.
- Help show that your symptoms are legitimate, severe and persistent.
Be sure to detail your different symptoms, including the level, location and persistence of your pain; exhaustion or fatigue; insomnia; gastrointestinal problems; and mental or emotional difficulties. Discuss whether any of your symptoms interfered with your activities.
- Witness statements. Obtain statements from people that have observed firsthand your physical or mental limitations. These potential witnesses may include family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, and prior employers.
What a Disability Benefits Attorney Can Do for You
If you are considering filing for Social Security disability benefits for fibromyalgia, or wish to appeal a denial of benefits, seek an attorney, who will:
- Prepare your application or appeal papers.
- Review your medical records to make sure you’ve had the appropriate tests to diagnose your fibromyalgia.
- Advise whether you need to seek additional treatment or need to see a specialist, such as a rheumatologist.
- Obtain any relevant missing medical records for submission with your claim.
- Obtain witness statements regarding your limitations.
- Obtain your treating physician’s opinion regarding your diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, functional limitations, and prognosis.
- Evaluate your claim and recommend how you can increase your chances of success.
To arrange for your free case evaluation and to discuss receiving disability benefits for fibromyalgia in Detroit, call disability benefits attorney Marc J. Shefman at 248-298-3003 or toll-free at 1-888-282-0719.