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3 Tips for Winning Social Security Disability Benefits With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a frustrating condition. It can be debilitating for sufferers, but it’s also largely invisible. Patients with fibromyalgia may not appear disabled to the casual observer, and the condition can’t be diagnosed with a simple test like a blood analysis or MRI.

All of this can make it difficult for fibromyalgia patients to be approved for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits, even when their condition is severe enough to prevent them from working. However, while applying for disability benefits with a fibromyalgia diagnosis can be difficult, it is possible to win these cases. Take a look at some tips that can help you get approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

Get a Fibromyalgia Residual Functional Capacity Assessment

Fibromyalgia is not listed in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, sometimes called the Blue Book.  This lists specific conditions that qualify for benefits and the criteria that patients must meet. This does not mean that fibromyalgia can’t be considered a disabling condition, but it does mean that proving it isn’t as simple as meeting a given set of criteria.

What really matters when it comes to disability benefits is whether you’re able to work. That’s where a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment comes in.

Your residual functional capacity is, to put it simply, your physical or mental ability level after the limitations caused by your symptoms are accounted for. An RFC assessment is an evaluation of your condition and symptoms that determines what level you’re at.  Depending on the case, we may need a physical RFC, a mental RFC, or both. 

There are five levels of a physical Residual Functional Capacity: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. The capacity needed to be approved for benefits depends partly on your education level and employment history.

For example, if your training and employment history are in the field of heavy construction work, a physical RFC assessment of light might be enough to qualify you for disability benefits, depending on your age.

On the other hand, if you’re a computer programmer doing sedentary work, a physical RFC assessment of light would probably result in a denial of benefits if only physical limitations are at issue. However, it’s important to note that limitations like memory problems may also prevent you from working even in a sedentary job. You may need a mental RFC assessment as well to take limitations like these into account.

There is a specific physical RFC that should be used for fibromyalgia.  An experienced Social Security lawyer can provide this to you. 

Make Sure to List All of Your Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is generally thought of as a chronic pain disease. And while it does cause pain, it causes other symptoms as well. Ongoing fibromyalgia symptoms can also include headaches, fatigue, memory problems, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety.

It’s easy for fibromyalgia patients to become accustomed to the symptoms and fail to mention them when applying for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. But all of your symptoms matter. If the chronic body pain isn’t enough to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits by itself, it may be enough when combined with digestive symptoms, fatigue, headaches, or memory problems.

Remember that pain is subjective. The judges who rule on Social Security Disability cases hear complaints of chronic pain every day and may have their own impression of what pain does or doesn’t mean. Everybody’s pain threshold is different, and it can be difficult to accurately evaluate the level of pain that somebody else is in.

Something like irritable bowel syndrome is far less subjective, and the judge may find it easier to understand and relate to. Judges are only human, so the more evidence we can give them that they can relate to, the easier they will find it to approve your claim.

 

Keep a Fibro Diary

There are many ways to prove that your symptoms impact your daily life and interfere with your ability to work. Your medical records, statements from your doctor, and statements from family and friends can all bolster your claim. However, your own accounting of your symptoms and their effects is an important part of your claim.

It can be hard to remember every time pain stopped you from doing something, or another symptom interfered with your ability to function. Since fibromyalgia often causes problems with memory and your ability to focus, it can be even more challenging to list all of the ways that your condition impacts you.

Keeping a daily diary of your symptoms and how they affect you can be a great way to establish a record of your condition. Each day, write down how you’re feeling. If you experience a symptom that causes you to stop doing something or to ask for help doing something, write it down as it happens.

There are even apps that can help you track your symptoms if you don’t find it practical to keep a journal and pen handy at all times. These can help you track and quantify your symptoms. Some even allow you to create printable reports that you can use as evidence to help support your disability claim.

Social Security Disability attorney who has experience with claims for fibromyalgia or other invisible disabilities can help you organize and present your evidence so that you have the best chance of being approved for your benefits. We strongly recommend that an experienced attorney help you navigate the Social Security system.