Is fibromyalgia a disability?
It can — if the condition becomes so severe that you are unable to work. However, these claims can be confusing and the most difficult to win. Fibromyalgia symptoms are generally self-reported, so Social Security claims examiners and administrative law judges may be reluctant to approve these claims. An experienced Detroit disability attorney can help.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is also known as fibromyositis, fibrositis, or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Victims often experience pain throughout their bodies. That pain may be due to stimuli that would not normally cause pain, such as light pressure, soft touches, odors, sounds, or changes in temperatures.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Problems with digestion
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Cognitive problems (“fibro fog”)
Most of these symptoms cannot be seen on objective tests and are therefore subjective in nature. This makes it very difficult to prove the severity of your condition, and that you even have fibromyalgia.
How Does Social Security Evaluate Fibromyalgia?
The SSA published ruling SSR 12-2p explaining how they evaluate whether fibromyalgia meets the requirements of a “medically determinable impairment” (MDI). Using diagnostic criteria from the American College of Rheumatology, the SSA stated that the following criteria must be met:
- There must be evidence of widespread chronic pain for at least three months; and
- Objective tests, such as MRIs, x-rays, etc., have ruled out other possible conditions.
Additionally, at least one of the following criteria must be met. The existence of:
- At least 11 of 18 positive tender point sites; or
- Repeated occurrence of at least six fibromyalgia symptoms.
Once the SSA determines whether your fibromyalgia is an MDI, they must evaluate whether you are disabled, which requires additional criteria. You must prove that you are incapable of performing your past work or any other jobs in the U.S. for a period of 12 months or more.
How to Document Fibromyalgia as a Disability
You need to gather evidence to support your claim to the SSA. Evidence may include:
- Diagnosis from a rheumatologist. Although your primary care physician can diagnose you, it’s not going to hold as much weight as a diagnosis from a specialist. Some doctors have been accused of using fibromyalgia as a catch all diagnosis, so a positive report from a rheumatologist or other specialist is beneficial.
- All relevant medical records. You should provide medical records from all doctors you have seen regarding your pain and how it impacts your life. Even if you started experiencing pain years before you became disabled, you should include that documentation in your evidence to the SSA.
- Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). You should ask your doctor to complete an RFC form, which details your abilities and limitations. The SSA will need to know how long you can sit, stand, walk, lift, manipulate small objects, and perform other job duties and activities of daily living.
- Daily journal. Although your reports will be subjective and hold less weight that that of your doctor, you should include them in your evidence.
- Statements from friends, family or coworkers. These statements can testify about what you are able to do and what you are limited in doing.