Is Fibromyalgia Eligible for SSDI Benefits?

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a painful health disorder that can be debilitating, but obtaining the long-term disability benefits you need can be exceptionally challenging. In fact, fibromyalgia is often classified in the category of invisible diseases, which refer to illnesses that others can’t see, making them that much more difficult to overcome.

If you have questions or concerns related to your fibromyalgia and SSDI benefits, an experienced Arkansas SSDI attorney is standing by to help.

Is Fibromyalgia a Disability?

Because fibromyalgia  is an invisible disease that can range from relatively mild to extremely serious, it is less well understood and more difficult to classify as a disability accurately. The fact is, however, that FM can be debilitating and can qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits. Some of the hallmarks of FM include:

  • Immense fatigue
  • Pain that is widespread throughout the body
  • Cognitive challenges that are often called fibro fog

To make matters more challenging, FM is often accompanied by other health concerns, such as:

  • Migraines
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression

The breadth of FM’s scope can make it especially difficult to conquer and can cut your ability to continue working short. While FM can qualify as a disability for SSDI, you can expect the path forward toward claiming disability for fibromyalgia to be challenging, and having a dedicated SSDI attorney on your side is always well advised.

SSDI for Fibromyalgia

FM is not included in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) published list of recognized impairments, but this does not mean that it is never covered.

Every Social Security disability case is determined in relation to SSA’s evaluation of the medical condition at hand, and if that medical condition meets or is equal to one that is included in its Listing of Impairments, it can qualify.

Ultimately, disability determinations are based on the following two primary matters:

  • Whether or not you have what is deemed a medically determinable impairment
  • Whether or not your impairment limits your functional ability to the degree that it stops you from working (or prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity)

Making the Determination

To classify your fibromyalgia as disabling, SSA will take several primary factors into consideration.

Objective Evidence

SSA requires objective evidence in the form of a medical diagnosis to classify FM as a disability, and toward this end, it accepts two stringent criteria.

The 1990 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Criteria for the Classification of Fibromyalgia

This criteria includes all the following:

  • A history of widespread pain that spans at least three months
  • The 18 tender points test
  • The exclusion of another disorder causing the symptoms

The 2010 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Preliminary Diagnostic Criteria

This criteria focuses on the following:

  • A history of widespread pain that spans at least three months
  • Ongoing manifestations of at least six FM symptoms (including co-occurring conditions)
  • The exclusion of another disorder causing the symptoms

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

Because FM is an invisible disease for which the symptoms are typically self-reported, a diagnosis from a medical specialist like a rheumatologist is required and can play a primary role in your case.

Extensive Medical History

Because FM is not a linear, straightforward condition that follows a specific path, longitudinal medical histories that span the course of the condition and that outline the medical treatment and comprehensive evaluations you’ve received from reliable medical sources are necessary.

For example, long-term medical records from a rheumatologist who specializes in FM can be especially beneficial. Generally, SSA evaluates medical records for the 12 months prior to the application date.

Supporting Evidence of Fibromyalgia

The more medical evidence you have in support of your FM claim, the stronger your disability case will be. Keeping a journal of your daily experience in terms of the pain you suffer, the symptoms you encounter, and the difficulties you experience as a result of FM can prove advantageous. A psychological assessment may also be warranted to highlight how FM affects you both physically and emotionally – on a daily and on a long-term basis.

Non-medical Evidence

SSA will also consider the supporting evidence provided by those closest to you regarding how FM has directly affected your life, including statements made by people like the following:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Loved ones
  • Clergy members
  • Employers

If Your Claim Is Denied

If your SSDI benefits claim for fibromyalgia is denied, there are several important steps you can – and should – take.

Work Closely with a Trusted SSDI Attorney

If you haven’t already, it’s time to reach out to an accomplished SSDI attorney. Obtaining disability benefits for FM is notoriously challenging, which makes having professional legal counsel on your side paramount.

Appeal the Decision

If you don’t agree with SSA’s finding in your case, you have the right to request it be reconsidered. Generally, you have only 60 days to file an appeal (barring a legitimate justification for needing more time).

Submit Additional Medical Evidence

If your medical condition changes during the application or appeal process, you’ll need to inform SSA, and if your FM is worsening, it can strengthen your case. Additional testimony from medical professionals with relevant experience can also help bolster your position.

Ask for a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge

If your appeal proves unsuccessful, you can move forward by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will thoroughly review your case. This review will likely include interviewing you, your medical providers, and any other witnesses.

Consult with an Experienced Arkansas SSDI Attorney

If you are suffering from debilitating FM, obtaining the disability benefits to which you are entitled can be especially challenging. If you find yourself in this difficult situation, the formidable Arkansas SSDI attorneys at Denton & Zachary – with offices in Little Rock, Conway, and Cordova – have an impressive track record of successfully guiding claims like yours toward advantageous outcomes.

Learn more by contacting or calling us at 501-521-1353 today.

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