Social Security touches the lives of nearly every American, often during times of personal hardship, transition, and uncertainty. Social security programs serve as vital financial protection for working men and women, children, the disabled, and the elderly.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia you know that doing daily tasks can be painful and altogether impossible. If you have been working and are diagnosed with fibromyalgia you may find that you are no longer able to work under the constant pain and stress. You may also have many questions like, do I qualify for Social Security, does fibromyalgia qualify, and what types of documents do I need to prove that I am disabled and unable to work?
For more than 20 years, Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak of the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak has fought on behalf of hard-working northwest Arkansans. Ken understands that you didn’t choose to stop working at the trade or occupation, but rather that an impairment, disability, or illness became so severe that you had no other option. Ken is proud to work with and fight for the honest, dedicated people of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Bella Vista, and all of northwest Arkansas.
What is the Definition of Disability?
Not every disability is the same while you may think of someone who is in a wheelchair as being disabled, that is not always the case. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, and a number of other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can make daily tasks difficult if not altogether impossible. To someone who is suffering with fibromyalgia it may seem obvious that they are not able to work under such severe and debilitating pain, however disability is defined in the Social Security Act as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. The person’s medical condition must prevent him or her from doing work that he or she did in the past, and it must prevent the person from adjusting to other work. The Social Security Act defines disability very strictly and has set forth a clear set of eligibility rules. The Social Security’s disability program differ from those of private plans or other government agencies and does not provide temporary or partial disability benefits, like workers’ compensation or veterans’ benefits do.
To receive disability benefits, a person must meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Act (Act). A person is disabled under the Act if he or she can’t work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least, one year or result in death.
What is a Medically Determine Impairment?
It is not always simple to qualify and be approved for Social Security Disability. The SSA uses very specific terms that may be hard to understand or may be utterly incomprehensible. The specific term used by the SSA to define an acceptable disabling condition is “medically determinable impairment” (MDI). Medically determinable impairment is defined as an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities, which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings. You will not be able to prove your claim using only your own testimony. The purpose of this step is to weed out frivolous cases in which the claimant has no medically determinable impairment or only a slight impairment. If your treating doctor has provided a diagnosis for your medical condition, you will likely have a medically determinable impairment. However, even if your doctor disagrees on the proper diagnosis, the SSA will usually conclude that you have a medically determinable impairment.
Does SSI Recognize Fibromyalgia?
In the past, many of those who applied for Social Security benefits because they had fibromyalgia had their claims denied. This was partially due to the lack of a specific listing for the condition. However, in July 2012, Social Security published a ruling (SSR 12-2p) to explain how disability claims examiners and judges should evaluate whether fibromyalgia constitutes a “medically determinable impairment” (MDI). (To be even considered as a basis for disability benefits, a medical condition must be a severe MDI.) Citing diagnostic criteria used by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), Social Security found that fibromyalgia should be considered an MDI when the following two criteria have been met:
- There is evidence of widespread chronic pain that has lasted at least three months, and
- Objective tests (laboratory testing, MRIs, and x-rays) have ruled out other possible conditions.
- In addition, one of the following must also be present:
- Positive tender point sites in at least 11 of 18 of tested areas, above and below the waist and on both sides of the body, or
- Repeated occurrence of at least six fibromyalgia symptoms, especially fatigue, cognitive and memory issues (“fibro fog”), waking unrefreshed, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety.
Under the new ruling, a claims examiner that is assigned to your claim will review your medical records to determine they include evidence of the above-mentioned criteria. Additionally, the examiner will read your doctor’s notes on all of your complaints including pain, fatigue and possible cognitive difficulties including “fibro fog”. The claims examiner may ask your doctor to provide additional information to assess the credibility of your claim including the extent and duration of your impairments and their opinions of how well you are able to function with the condition. Remember that these criteria establish only whether your fibromyalgia is a medically determinable impairment, not whether you are disabled. Even if you satisfy the above requirements, you still must demonstrate to Social Security that you’re incapable of performing your past work and any other jobs in the U.S.
Our Fayetteville, Arkansas Disability Lawyers Have the Experience to Help
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and are considering filing for SSI, you should consider hiring an attorney who can help you navigate the intricate process and who has proven results. For more than 20 years the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak has worked to secure benefits for the people who need it most. If you or a loved one has a medical condition and cannot work, it is important to speak to a disability lawyer. You can arrange for a free legal consultation by calling (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.
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