Can You Get on Disability for Fibromyalgia? Your Questions Answered
The information in this article is current as of October 15, 2021. It is not intended as legal advice.
What if you could finally get relief from some of the challenges posed by fibromyalgia?
No, we’re not talking about relief from the pain. We’re talking about financial relief in the form of disability benefits.
Many who suffer from it ask themselves this question: “can you get on disability for fibromyalgia?” Keep reading to discover the surprising answer.
Can You Get On Disability For Fibromyalgia?
Our guide is going to cover many of the related topics and questions that you may have. But let’s start with the big one: can you get on disability for fibromyalgia?
The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is “yes, but it’s challenging to get approved.”
Why is it difficult to get approved? Simple: your application for disability must include plenty of paperwork to document your condition. However, many who experience fibromyalgia self-report the symptoms they are dealing with. So to get approved, you are going to have to have extensive medical documentation and a compelling application.
Though the outcome of any disability application is uncertain, we will walk you through how to put together an application and how you may be able to access disability benefits for fibromyalgia. But one of the other factors you’ll need to deal with is whether or not you can still work.
Is It Possible To Work With Fibromyalgia?
It’s a common misconception that you cannot work if you want to receive disability benefits. The truth is that you can still work, but the Social Security Administration puts a hard cap on how much money you can earn each month. And if you illustrate that you can efficiently work a certain number of hours per week and/or maintain a certain income level, the SSA may determine that your health conditions are not severe enough to warrant disability benefits.
So that brings us to another big question: is it possible to work with fibromyalgia? In this case, the short answer is “it depends on your case.” No two cases of fibromyalgia are alike, and different people may be affected in different ways.
For example, fibromyalgia typically manifests in psychological symptoms (including extreme stress) and physiological symptoms (including extreme pain). If these symptoms are bad enough, you may be unable to work at all or unable to work full-time.
Sometimes, employers are willing to accommodate your workplace and your schedule to work around fibromyalgia effectively. But if your symptoms are severe enough that they curtail how much work you can perform, or they even keep you from performing any work at all, then you may want to consider applying for disability benefits. And because disability benefits are relatively modest, you can also look into ways to save on bills.
How Does Social Security Define a Disability?
At this point, you’re probably asking another big question: how does Social Security even define a disability? After all, two people with the same condition may apply for benefits, and only one of them is approved. So what is the SSA looking for?
Generally speaking, the SSA wants documentation that helps to prove you have a medically determinable impairment. However, it is sometimes difficult to get approved if you “only” have fibromyalgia, which is why medical documentation is so necessary.
So, what does the SSA want to see here? First off, they want medical documentation that rules out other causes of your symptoms. And the symptoms themselves need to be present and persistent for at least three months.
They will also want to know whether your condition has hindered your ability to work. On top of that, the SSA also wants statements from both you and others (this could include doctors and even employers) about how your condition has kept you from completing specific responsibilities.
Finally, the SSA wants to see specific signs and evidence that you have fibromyalgia.
What Can These Signs and Symptoms Include?
Providing proof of the signs and symptoms you are experiencing sounds simple enough in theory. But first, you need to know what some of these signs and symptoms are.
A significant sign is simply fatigue. This can include everything from waking up exhausted to running out of energy in the middle of the day.
In some cases, fibromyalgia may result in certain psychological conditions as well. For example, it can very easily lead to depression and anxiety. On top of that, fibromyalgia can lead to memory issues as well.
And there are some surprising physiological symptoms as well—for example, many who suffer from fibromyalgia experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
By now, you can probably see the main difficulty posed by a disability application. Many of these symptoms, such as feeling exhausted or tired, are effectively self-reported. And other symptoms, ranging from IBS to memory problems to anxiety and depression, could be caused by others.
It doesn’t mean you can’t successfully submit a disability application to the SSA. But a successful application will have extensive medical documentation about your condition that helps prove you are experiencing enough symptoms to qualify for benefits to help support you and your family.
The Importance of Documentation
We keep talking about the importance of documenting your symptoms. But what is the best way to do this?
Initially, documentation starts with your notes about how you feel at different points throughout the day. Next, you may want to consider buying a diary or notebook and writing down the days and times you feel extreme pain, especially pain that keeps you from completing whatever you are doing. If you are logging your symptoms, you should also document days and times that you feel extreme exhaustion.
Armed with this information, you can start getting official medical documentation. This usually starts with getting a fibromyalgia diagnosis from a rheumatologist. He and other doctors may also prescribe medications and lab tests, and you should get documentation for all of this along with the rest of your medical records.
It would help if you also got your doctor to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment that more fully determines your impairments.
Finally, write up a summary of the jobs you have previously worked and a list of contact info for all the doctors, hospitals, and caseworkers you have been interacting with.
See A Rheumatologist As Soon As You Can
While all medical professionals mentioned above are essential for your disability cause, your rheumatologist may be the most important.
The first reason for this is that your rheumatologist is the only one who can make an official fibromyalgia diagnosis. On top of that, they are the medical professional in the best position to study and document the different impairments related to your condition.
On the most basic level, this means assessing your ability to work a typical job. For example, the rheumatologist can determine whether you can perform the primary responsibilities of an 8-hour workday, including regular bouts of sitting, standing, and walking from one place to another.
This doctor can also determine how likely you will make it to work on time and regularly make it to your job. Along with this, the doctor can assess your ability to pick up and carry heavy things, which is an employee’s responsibility at many jobs.
Finally, your rheumatologist can assess how fibromyalgia affects your ability to move, balance, bend, and even crawl. While it may seem excessive, every bit of documentation regarding your condition and symptoms has the potential to help improve your disability application.
How To Apply For Disability
We’ve focused quite a bit on getting the documentation necessary for your application. But how, exactly, can you begin your disability application?
Perhaps the simplest way to apply is by using the official website. Alternatively, you can reach them by phone at 800-772-1213. And if you should be hard of hearing, you can reach the SSA by dialing TTY 800-325-0778.
What about going to your Social Security office and applying? While that was once an option, the COVID-19 pandemic means that applicants must use the website or telephone to initiate their application.
When can you apply? Technically, you can apply as soon as you have been officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia by your rheumatologist. But as we noted above, we recommend waiting until you have gathered the documentation necessary to help your case.
How Long Will the Application Process Take?
After submitting your application, you will likely have one more burning question: how long will you have to wait to hear the results?
Applicants typically have to wait anywhere between three to five months for a decision from the SSA. This takes so long because of the sheer number of applicants and how long it takes doctors to review applications. Another reason is that the SSA may reach out to you and have you visit a clinician to determine how fibromyalgia has affected things like your memory, concentration, speech, and more.
Your application may not be approved, in which case you do have the right to appeal the decision.
Even if your application is approved, there can be some additional wait time. For example, the SSA won’t consider you eligible for benefits until six months after you were officially diagnosed (which is one more reason to see a rheumatologist right away). However, once your application is approved and it has been six months since your diagnosis, you may begin getting payment the following month.
While you are waiting, it may be worth your time to explore more affordable housing options.
Your Next Move
Now you have an answer to the question, “can you get on disability for fibromyalgia?” But do you know where to get other benefits you may need?
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for disability benefits, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.