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3 Social Security Disability Tips For Fibromyalgia Sufferers

Living with a disease that causes chronic pain is hard enough. Going to work every day while living with a disease that causes chronic pain may be nearly impossible – yet many fibromyalgia sufferers attempt to do just that, because they don't know that they can qualify for disability benefits, or they don't know how to get approved. If you're living with fibromyalgia, or you're living with chronic pain that you suspect is caused by fibromyalgia, there is help out there for you. Here are a few things that you should know about applying for Social Security Disability benefits when you're living with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Is Covered By Social Security Disability

If you have fibromyalgia and you haven't applied for Social Security benefits, it's probably because you're unaware that you can be approved for benefits with fibromyalgia as a diagnosis. This is a common misconception that arises because fibromyalgia isn't listed among the various disabilities that Social Security provides disability benefits for. But despite what you may have read or heard, Social Security does provide benefits for fibromyalgia patients with an approved diagnosis and the proper documentation.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

One thing that makes it difficult to get benefits for fibromyalgia is the fact that fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose. There's no blood test or X-ray that can confirm that it's fibromyalgia that's causing your pain. At one time, fibro was given as a "catchall" diagnosis – meaning that the doctor wasn't sure what was causing the pain, so fibromyalgia was as good a name for it as any. This kind of diagnosis is much less common now, but disability claim investigators still need to see proof that your fibromyalgia diagnosis is genuine, and not a catchall diagnosis.

There are several ways for a fibromyalgia specialist to prove to the satisfaction of the disability investigator that you actually have fibromyalgia. One way is to run tests for other, similar disorders like lupus, hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis. Eliminating these disorders as possibility lends credence to the fibro diagnosis. The pressure test is another diagnostic tool accepted by Social Security. Basically, there are 18 pressure points that are painful for fibromyalgia patients when they are pressed on. If you have pain in at least 11 of these points, it's considered indicative of fibromyalgia. If your doctor hasn't yet tested you to rule out similar disorders or tested these pressure points, you should have that done before applying for Social Security benefits.

Appealing a Denial

Even with a fibromyalgia diagnosis from a specialist and a history of symptoms, it's entirely likely that you may be denied the first time that you apply for Social Security. This is because fibromyalgia is essentially chronic pain, and it can be tough to prove that your pain prevents you from working. Remember that pain is subjective, and it's difficult to understand chronic pain if you haven't experienced it.

Don't let a denial stop you from pursuing your benefits. On appeal, you'll be able to give testimony that supports your case and call witnesses that can back up your claims. In many cases, it's easier to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits for fibromyalgia during an appeal in front of an administrative law judge than it is to win your benefits with your initial application. You may also use the time between your denial and your appeal to see a different doctor or specialist whose opinion may have more sway with the Social Security Administration than your original doctor's opinion did.

Because fibromyalgia is one of the more difficult conditions to win benefits for, you should engage the services of an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer from the start. Your lawyer will help you gather and assess your medical record to be sure that they're complete and convincing, and can help prepare you for any hearings or appeals. These services greatly improve your chances of being approved for Social Security benefits.