Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common, chronic disorder that causes muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, tenderness, stiffness, and trigger points. The cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it’s linked to a number of things, including traumatic events, repetitive injuries, stress, anxiety, depression, illness, or gene defects.

Medical Evidence

There are not diagnostic laboratory tests that will prove that an applicant has fibromyalgia. The diagnosis is often a long process involving many different doctors. Make sure to mention each and every visit in your application. The official guidelines by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) are at least three months of widespread pain, fatigue, sleeping problems, and, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and/or cognitive problems.

Treatment is often a team of a primary care physician, physical therapist, and other health professionals. You should get written statements form every doctor that treats you detailing your condition and its debilitating effects. You should also include other longitudinal evidence and descriptions and reactions of any treatments. Fibromyalgia is treated by lifestyle changes as well as medication. You should also include the lifestyle changes you have made to treat the disease and why those lifestyle changes are not enough for you to be able to work.

In some cases, even a statement from your primary care doctor isn’t enough to be approved for disability benefits. Because of its subjective nature and not all primary care doctors understanding the disease, a diagnosis from an orthopedist or rheumatologist will make your application stronger.

One very important test you can include is called a Trigger Points test. This is a test to determine tenderness at 18 points (nine pairs) of the body: front of the neck, back of the neck, shoulders, elbows, chest, upper back, lower back, hips, and knees.

Non-Medical Evidence

You also need to evidence proving that because of your condition you can’t work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will most likely approve your claim based on a Medical-Vocational allowance. These measure your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), which are your workplace limitations. It’s very important to prove that you can’t even do sedentary work, which means you:

  • Can’t lift more than 20 pounds
  • Can’t lift 10 pounds regularly
  • Can’t walk or stand for two hours a day

In addition to those limitations, you need to list as many others as possible for the best chance of the disability examiner determining your RFC below sedentary level. If your claim is denied by the SSA, then you should appeal the denial. Many claims are denied the first time because they don’t include enough evidence. A disability lawyer can help you by cutting the time between submitting your application and receiving your benefits to get you the money you need.