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As Sandra M. Klepach’s article in the News-Hearld reports, chronic fatigue (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FMS) sufferers have diseases with symptoms that are not objective, which makes it difficult to win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The Social Security Administration says that pain and fatigue illnesses “are medically determinable conditions.” In other words it is not something that can simply be proved by an MRI or blood test.

Ann Lang is a N.Y. based paralegal who has won SSDI benefits for more than 20 CFS sufferers in the past 15 years. She acknowledges that her job is one of educating people on what CFS is and doesn’t doubt for a minute that it can render a person legally disabled. She makes her point by explaining that multiple sclerosis was once thought to be something in the afflicted person’s mind. That is, until it was proven that the cause stemmed from plaque on the brain.

Winning CFS claims can be arduous and take time. Sometimes it takes up to three years of appeals before winning a CFS claim.

When deciding if a CFS sufferer qualifies for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration requires a minimum of four symptoms that persist for at least 6 months from this list:

  1. Impairment of short-term memory or concentration severe enough to cause substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities
  2. Sore throat
  3. Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
  4. Muscle pain
  5. Multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness
  6. Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity
  7. Unrefreshing sleep
  8. Postexternal malaise lasting more than 24 hours

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jonathan Ginsberg April 12, 2008, 11:57 am

    I would add a few more items to this list:
    – balance issues
    – digestive problems
    – fibro fog (i.e. memory and concentration issues)

    I practice Social Security Disability law in Atlanta, GA and I have represented dozens of fibro claimants over the years. I think that the biggest issue continues to be the judges. If a judge understands fibromyalgia and accepts that it does exist, a fibro claimant can get a fair hearing. If the judge does not believe that fibormyalgia actually exists or if the judge requires that “pay” cases include objective evidence, then the claimant will lose. The trend is improving but there are still judges out there who don’t acknowledge that the condition exists.
    Jonathan Ginsberg
    Ginsberg Law Offices

  • Juanita May 5, 2008, 11:21 am

    I have been suffering from many of the above symptoms for many years. It actually started with balance issues about 3 yrs ago and I was constantly being treated for inner ear disturbances, although regardless of what type of treatment that was done, the balance issues remained to some degree. Even now, I often find myself losing my balance while standing still and running into things. I was often described as clutsy or accident prone. I have had the muscle issues for over 20 years and have been told that I just have too much stress and need to relax. Dr’s have offered advice from drinking a beer every night to Xanax–somtimes these things work, sometimes they dont. Just recently, due to severe digestive issues, my dr has said that I have ibs and just to humor me because of how much I have been complaining of fatigue, he ordered cytomeglavirus and epsein barr titers. The four markers for e-b-v came back extremely high and the dr has ordered another blood test in two weeks. In addition to this I have also had a swelling on the left side of my jaw for over 6 months that the dr has said is a stone in my salivary gland and has been prescribing many diff types of antibiotics, none have changed anything with the swelling in the jaw. Now this swelling is also in my left axilla and with my latest mammogram a lump has been found in my left breast into my left axilla. At this point, I havent been able to steadily work for close to 5 months, my dr doesnt really seem to think that what I am dealing with right now should be affecting my everyday life as much as it is. I am an RN plus I own and run my own horse boarding and training facility. I have not been able to care for my horses properly and have not had the energy to go to work, leaving me in a position where I had to resign from my steady job and just pick up agency work when I feel physically capable of doing it. My husband has been extremely patient and supportive up to this point, but I think that he is having some trouble understanding why the dr cant come up with an exact reason why I am feeling this way or to prescribe something to help me feel better. I am concerned at this point that I could also be dealing with some form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and I am seeing a specialsit for the lump in my axilla and breast. I guess that I am just looking for some advice–would I be able to apply for disability at this point? I just sometimes feel that I cant really go on like this and need some help in sorting through everything.

  • Richard Brassaw May 5, 2008, 11:42 am


    Here’s a few articles that you may find of interest.





    Although you did not mention Agoraphobia, I’d like to mention to others that balance issues caused by the inner ear have been known to contribute to this condition. The theory is that while in confined spaces one can orientate by vertical lines, but when in areas that lack strong vertical lines balance can be difficult.

  • Jean Bevan June 5, 2008, 1:06 am

    Dear JUANITA, I have been caring for my husband for more than 12 years and one of the most difficult hurdles is that nobody except your immediate family really understands what the C.F. patient is going through. All of your symptoms are suffered by my husband,to a lesser or greater degree. He suffers more muscle pain and has been unable to work for 12 years. He initially suffered from balance issues but these are less at present. He periodically has I.B. He finds that he suffers short-term memory loss, and complains of being in a fog. He has a heightened awareness of senses and cannot be in strong sunlight, too much noise or exposed to strong scent. At present we are having an investigation into his salivary glands because they have been continously swollen for 6 months. It has been an ongoing problem for all of the time but previously they went up and down, now they have remained constantly up. The consultant we saw said that it was a tumour and we will have to have a scan and a biopsy. If that brings any relief hopefully I will be able to let you know.
    I worked until our family were through university,but now I have taken early retirement to enable me to look after my husband full time. We used to live in a suburban area and we found that pollution was making my husband extra fatigued so we moved to the seaside. That has certainly helped. At present he is able to manage about 10 hours a day out of bed.

  • Cindy Fegley September 24, 2008, 6:49 am

    I have been out of work now for just over a year. My physician advised me to leave on disability due to a number of health issues, but not for a single debilitating diagnosis. As a result, my former employer’s disability carrier denied the claim for short term disability. I have appealed it, but that was also denied. I am now down to a final appeal directly to the plan administrator who is an employee of my former employer. I did not resign, but was fired after my 12 weeks of FMLA ran out. My husband and I are now facing bankruptcy, losing our home, and other humiliating financial issues.

    One of the many specialists I’ve been seeing is a rheumatologist and she is of the opinion that I have CFS / Fibromyalgia. I have RLS and obstructive sleep apnea, chronic pain in my hands, elbows, pelvis and back with period pain in my knees. I have bi-lateral carpal tunnel and a neuropathy in my feet. I can not feel my toes or fingers…they are constantly numb and I’ve accidentally burned my fingers to the point of blistering because I couldn’t feel the item I touched. I am a type II diabetic and I have a congenital heart block with a pacemaker. I’ve had 2 forms of cancer in the last 4.5 years. I have exercised-induced asthma and I’m borderline hypertensive. I have frequent, debilitating migraines and frequently, I am confused to the point that I can’t remember where I was going, what I was going to do or say. I’m clumsy to the point that I stay bruised on my arms and legs and I’ve no idea where the bruising comes from. If I sit for too long, I’m stiff when I rise; if I stand for too long, it hurts to sit. We’ve recently moved, having lost our home, and I tried to do what I could to help with the process, but by each evening, I could hardly move, feeling as though every joint in my body had an extremely high internal pressure and that I would explode at any moment.

    I am working on my final appeal and intend to start a request for Social Security disability. Any words of encouragement would be appreciated!

  • Kristin October 27, 2008, 7:26 pm

    I cant give much information but im 21 and have the same symptoms. they have said I have Fibromyalgia and tried treating me with anti-depressants which I declined. They told me im overly stressed and need them to get better. I am going to go see a natural past and I totally understand the issues with relationships. My fience and I seem to be on tight wire alot lately its really hard because he just doesnt understand why i cant push through this. If anything the reasons i am stressed is due to this. Im 21 I shouldnt be sick i have to much of my life a head of me. I try to go to work when I can but its so difficult. Im slowly going ingto debate and there doesnt seem to be anyone willing to help. STDI needs a diagnoises as apparently this is not good enough. I would love to speak with any of you at any time

  • wendi johnson November 14, 2009, 9:10 pm

    my beautiful mom has ALS, Lou Gerig’s. This is a Horrible disease and its terminal. She is 65. She has worked since 14. She only has Medicare. She was only granted 12.00 per month more because she was on social security for 3.75 years prior to her terminal diagnois. They have a “FORMULA”, that they use.
    This is dirty and low down. You are able to work after getting your social security and continue to pay taxes but, are unable to qualify for disability after collecting social securiy.
    So anyone who feels they’ might be disable after receiving ss benefits might want to apply Before, JUST IN CASE.
    Its all figured out. It’s a JOKE. I hope God takes care of these GREEDY people.

  • James Fenton November 8, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I have been denyed SSD for Twelve years, I am suffering from Severe Fybromyalgia, and have to use 40 miligrams of Methadone,and Medical marijuana, every day just to get out of bed, i also take xanax, to keep my anxiety controlled. And I have been to only two Hearings, in that time, i have found that ,The Administrative Law Judge’s, that I have stood before, intimidate, invalidate, demean, and refute all my evidence. This last ALJ That I stood before was on closed circuit TV, and was One state away. I knew that it was for Show only, they have never had any intent to consider any evidence. In fact this ALJ refused to allow me to present any witnesses, or evidence, and that included my doctors, my ex-wife, and all the records of medications, ETC. Iv’e run out of all support and have been selling all my possesions to remain alive, and this is no longer helping since folks out here are as poor as I am.
    In the past I was employed as a Master Automotive Mechanic, in Santa Barbara, ca and I moved to oregon to be able to keep up with a smaller work load,at another Ford Dealer. It was less work than I expected, essentially no work at all. They had Lied about the seasonal fluctuations, and I found that I would not be able to do that kind of work for long, so I worked on the ground at my residence. Untill I could no longer keep up with the meager work that I could obtain.
    I think that the only way for me to get any of the $200.000.00 Back pay is to go public with all this information, I will not stop until people know what awaits them at the point where they can’t work anymore.
    The Social Security we have now, is in my opinion, just a way to keep Disabled workers, at bay long enough to make them “Dry up, and Blow Away, in other words, To let these worker that payed into SSD insurance, Die, or Give up and go away. This method of ignoring workers claims until they expire, is in My opinion UN American, and if it was a private company, This behavior would not be allowed to continue. The private company would be in violation of the law, since This is “Bad Faith”, meaning that the company NEVER INTENDED to Pay it’s claims, to it’s customers.
    This is the Federal Government, and it makes them immune to legal standards that all the other companies, or private individuals, must adhere to, or be charged with breaking the law.