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Proving Fibromyalgia Disability to Claim Social Security Disability


Published: 2010-04-24 : (Rev. 2013-06-16)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits for those who can no longer work because of fibromyalgia pain.

Main Digest

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis: Can You Prove Disability To Obtain SSD Benefits- Depending on the severity of the symptoms, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be an option for those who can no longer work because of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia syndrome can be an extremely painful condition that is difficult to diagnosis. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, it is defined as a "collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems" that doesn't have an attributed cause. Symptoms include chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, balance and coordination problems, recurring migraines and fatigue. Fibromyalgia (FM) is more likely to affect women, and they may begin to see symptoms in early adulthood.

Unfortunately, no one test exists to definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. To obtain a fibromyalgia diagnosis, patients must frequently endure tests for many other conditions to eliminate those conditions as possible diagnoses. For that reason, fibromyalgia syndrome is frequently inaccurately referred to as a "diagnosis of exclusion." But to obtain a fibromyalgia diagnosis, the patient must show: widespread pain in all four body quadrants for at least three months and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 points when pressure is applied.

When Fibromyalgia Prevents You From Working, What Can You Do

Because of the debilitating effect of fibromyalgia, many FM sufferers are unable to work in their current occupation. Some FM sufferers are unable to work at all. Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the age of the patient, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be an option for those who can no longer work because of their condition.

At a minimum, to obtain SSD benefits, the applicant must have a written diagnosis of fibromyalgia from a medical doctor. Some FM advocacy sites suggest that the diagnosis should come from a rheumatologist. Beyond the diagnosis, the SSD applicant should provide copies of treatment records and the names of physicians who provided treatment. Records with detailed descriptions of symptoms, attempted treatments, reactions, and limitations provide the best proof of disability to the Social Security Administration.

What is the SSD Benefits Claim Process Like

The SSD benefit claims process may take several years before the claim is resolved. In many cases, applicants are initially denied and must appeal the decision. Applicants must not be discouraged by the long wait times and exhaustive review of medical record as this is common.

SSD applicants begin the process by completing an application for benefits. Applicants must provide detailed information about work and medical history and the disability. The applicant's disability must be on the SSA's listing of impairments. Some FM sufferers may choose to list one of the conditions that is a part of the collection of FM symptoms rather than fibromyalgia, as it may be easier to prove a disability.

As mentioned, the application should include copies of all treatment notes and records. The more specific the treating physician has been about symptoms and treatments, the better. The records should also document how the conditions have limited the applicant's life including daily activities like walking, sleeping, sitting, standing and other physical activities.

After you submit the application and records, you may be examined by a physician. You will then be accepted or denied benefits. Do not be surprised if you are denied upon initial application. If you are, you have the right to appeal the decision. On appeal, you may have to provide additional evidence that supports your disability. At the appeal stage, most claims are denied.

If your claim is denied again, you have the right to request that a federal district court judge review your claim. You will have a hearing about your claim and will be able to testify and present other witnesses to support your disability claim. Many of the applicants who reach this stage of the process are successful. If not, the applicant has the right to appeal to the SSA's Appeals Council. Obviously, the claim process can be long and arduous, but applicants diagnosed with fibromyalgia can obtain SSD Benefits.


Living with fibromyalgia can be painful and may prevent you from working. If you cannot work because of a disability, you can file for Social Security Disability benefits. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can be your advocate on what can be a long and arduous claims process. Visit us at

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