Social Security Disability for Fibromyalgia Patients
Fibromyalgia is one of the most complicated and least understood medical conditions, and symptoms are numerous, random and diverse. Multiple systems in the body are affected, and fibromyalgia can often cause too many problems for a conventional doctor to manage or diagnose in the confines of our current health system.
Fibromyalgia can’t be easily confirmed or ruled out through a simple laboratory test, and your doctor can’t detect it in your blood or see it on an X-ray. Fibromyalgia appears to be linked to changes in how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals, and because there is no test for fibromyalgia, your doctor must rely solely on your group of symptoms to make a diagnosis. Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread body pain, fatigue, poor sleep and mood problems, but these symptoms are common to many conditions. Additionally, since fibromyalgia symptoms can occur alone or alongside other conditions, it takes time to tease out which symptoms are caused by the fibromyalgia. To make things even more confusing, fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go over time.
Fibromyalgia is often characterized by excessive pain when firm pressure is applied to specific areas of your body, called tender points. In the past, at least 11 of these 18 spots had to test positive to diagnose fibromyalgia, but since fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go, this number can vary depending on the day. Which is why an alternative set of guidelines was developed for doctors to use in general practice. These newer diagnostic criteria include: (1) Widespread pain lasting at least three months, (2) Presence of other symptoms such as fatigue, waking up tired and trouble thinking, and (3) No other underlying condition that might be causing the symptoms.
Many applicants for Social Security disability benefits who apply based on fibromyalgia get denied. Part of the reason has been that Social Security doesn’t have a disability “listing” for the condition. To address the problem, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published a ruling in 2012, SSR 12-2p, giving additional guidance to disability claim examiners and administrative law judges as to how to assess fibromyalgia cases. This ruling has helped reduce the number of fibromyalgia claimants who are denied at the initial application stage and has increased the number of fibromyalgia sufferers who file an appeal and eventually win their disability benefits.
If the SSA determines that you have the medically determinable impairment of fibromyalgia under the new ruling, then the evaluation is not over. The SSA will develop a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment for you to determine if there is any work you can do, including your past work. An RFC assessment is an evaluation of your ability to perform various exertional levels of work. The SSA bases your RFC on your medical records, opinions from doctors and specialists, and statements from you and your family members as to your abilities, such as how long you can stand, sit, and walk, how much you can lift, and how well you can focus and remember instructions. If your RFC prevents you from returning to your past work, or any other work that you can do given your age, education, and experience, then you will be found disabled.
Get Help from A Professional for your Fibromyalgia Claim
More so than in other cases, hiring a lawyer to appeal a denial of benefits for fibromyalgia can really help, since disability lawyers are familiar with the Social Security ruling on fibromyalgia (SSR 12-2p) and the latest court decisions on when disability should be granted for fibromyalgia. This knowledge can help your attorney find errors made by the claim examiner or judge in the disability determination and use it to your advantage.
To learn more about how to best apply for disability due to fibromyalgia, or to discuss your fibromyalgia claim that has been denied, contact Todd Renda of Renda Law in Tacoma for a FREE consultation. We’re here to help you get the benefits you deserve.