Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that is characterized by widespread muscle pain and tenderness that lasts for more than 3 months. Although it is estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia, awareness of the disease has increased only over the past few years.
Importantly, this increased awareness has also permeated the federal government and the Social Security system. It is critical for those who suffer from fibromyalgia (or who suspect that they do) to be aware of the legal protections in place that allow them to receive financial assistance to cope with the disability.
Those who suffer from fibromyalgia often go through a long process before they receive a diagnosis. Diagnosis can be difficult because, for some individuals, the disorder begins after they experience some sort of physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress. For others, symptoms of fibromyalgia come on gradually, with no single triggering event.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia typically include:
- widespread muscle pain
- chronic fatigue
- sleep disturbance
- depression or other mood disturbances
- memory impairment
To clinically diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors typically rely on certain guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology, which require the following findings:
- at least 11 of the 18 identified points on the body (such as the elbows and knees) must be painful to the touch on doctor examination
- fatigue, waking unrefreshed, and/or cognitive (memory or thought) problems
- other general physical symptoms
- no other health problem that would explain the pain and other symptoms
- symptoms lasting at least three months
Fibromyalgia Can Be Debilitating
The level of impairment caused by fibromyalgia can range from mild to extremely debilitating. As explained by one sufferer, simple chores like washing the dishes or making breakfast can be extremely challenging. “On a good day, I can get through the cups and silverware, then I must sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes.” “On a bad day, I have literally cried from the pain of standing long enough to fry an egg.”
Social Security Disability (SSD) And Fibromyalgia
The federal government recognizes that the pain from fibromyalgia can be so severe that it may cause an individual to be unable to work. Individuals with fibromyalgia may qualify for social security benefits through the federal government.
Individuals who were working prior to or after developing fibromyalgia may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is one of the largest federal programs providing financial assistance to people with disabilities. However, the application process requires a significant amount of paperwork, including medical documentation and support, as well as documentation regarding the applicant’s current functional abilities.
One challenge with fibromyalgia is that the Social Security Administration does not have an explicit listing of coverage for the condition. This leads some to mistakenly assume that they will not be able to receive support for fibromyalgia. That is not the case. Social Security is still available for those who have difficulty working as a result of the ailment.
Tips for Securing Social Security for Fibromyalgia
As with all Social Security claims, having your application approved essentially requires strong evidence to prove that you actually suffer from the stated condition. In addition, you must show that the duration and severity of the symptoms actually affect your ability to work. With that in mind, some strategies to help with your claim include:
Carefully document the symptoms – Simply having a professional diagnose you with an ailment alone may not be enough to secure support. Instead, the Social Security Administration will want to see information on the severity of the pain, how long the pain lasts, and the date of the first diagnosis. This can all be accomplished by carefully gathering medical records, lab results, doctor’s orders, and similar material. Personal diaries or journals describing day-to-day activities can also prove helpful.
Maintain regular doctor visits – Ultimately, solid medical evidence of pain is the key to success with your claim. By being careful about routine doctor visits, you can establish that this problem is ongoing and that you are genuine in securing as much relief from symptoms as possible.
Be persistent – It is not uncommon to have your claim denied even if it is entirely valid and meets all the requirements set forth by the Social Security Administration. The difference between those who do and do not succeed on their claims is often only a matter of perseverance. If you are denied, carefully look over the application, due dates, and other details before trying again to appeal the decision or correct any problems with the initial paperwork.
Get Legal Help
Individuals who are already overburdened by the limitations caused by their disabilities, such as fibromyalgia and chronic pain, often seek the legal assistance with preparing their SSD application, or with the appeal of any SSD benefit denial. In Florida, the law firm of Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. focuses on helping clients through the Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits claim process by providing representation that is both highly effective and responsive to our client’s individual needs. If you need help easing the burden of the SSD claims process, call us today at (305) 653-5555 or use our online contact form today.