Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, commonly known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS, is a complicated long-term condition that affects many body systems. Individuals with CFS are so tired they cannot complete their normal daily activities. While physical activity makes the condition worse, CFS does not improve with rest.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 2.5 million Americans have ME/CFS. Anyone can be afflicted, including children and teenagers, though it is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Women tend to have ME/CFS more often than men.
Most cases of ME/CFS are mild to moderate, but for those with severe symptoms, the effects can be as severe as lupus or heart disease. Symptoms cycle back and forth between good days and bad days and include the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
- Sore throat
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Poor concentration
- Loss of memory
There is no known cause of ME/CFS, but researchers suspect a few contributing factors.
Viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr, problems in the immune system, or a hormonal imbalance may trigger the condition, but there is still no conclusive evidence proving any of these play a definitive role. Scientists have also noticed some abnormalities in people with chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Cells in the body have trouble making enough energy
- Abnormal levels of hormones in the brain
- Abnormalities in the structure of certain genes
- Low levels of cortisol (the hormone released in response to stress)
People afflicted with chronic fatigue syndrome are likely to experience depression and social isolation and have increased work absences. They are also more likely to suffer from one of the following conditions:
- Chemical sensitivities
- Tension headaches
- Temporomandibular disorders, such as TMD or TMJ
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronis prostatitis
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Interstitial cystitis
Currently, there is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but its symptoms, especially those that are mild to moderate, can be managed.
Treatments include over-the-counter sleep aids, prescription medications, anti-depressants and developing good sleep habits. The most effective treatment combines cognitive training and graded exercise. With the help of counselors and physical therapists, a patient can plan a daily routine that makes them feel more in control of their life and reduce hypersensitivity to exercise.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
While some people with mild cases of chronic fatigue syndrome may be able to continue working, many individuals with severe symptoms cannot.
Though there is no specific listing for chronic fatigue syndrome in Social Security’s Blue Book, it is still possible – though difficult – to receive Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration is skeptical of all claims of ME/CFS and rarely approves them at the initial or reconsideration stage. In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must prove you have experienced of at least four of the following symptoms for six consecutive months:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Fatigue that is unrelieved by sleep
- Sore throat
- Muscle soreness
- Atypical headaches
- Joint pain without swelling or redness
- Deficits in memory or concentration
- Illness after exertion that lasts 24 hours
Your medical providers must also rule out other possible causes of your symptoms before diagnosing CFS.
You should provide all medical records pertaining to your condition to Social Security, including doctors’ notes, results of x-rays, MRIs, and other tests, and records from any hospitalizations. If you suffer from any other mental or physical conditions, be sure to include records concerning those impairments as well. Even if you cannot match the criteria of one of Social Security’s listed impairments, you may be awarded benefits through a medical vocational allowance which considers a person’s age, education, work history and residual functional capacity (the physical and mental abilities you retain despite the limitations of your medical condition). It’s imperative that you ask your doctor for a written opinion about any work-related limitations you may have.
Your doctor’s statement should include details about your physical and mental limitations in the following:
- lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling
- standing, sitting, and walking
- maintaining concentration for extended periods
- maintaining adequate attendance and punctuality, and
- understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple and complex instructions.
It may be helpful to keep a daily log of the nature and severity of your symptoms which you can submit to Social Security.
Statements from family members, friends, or former co-workers, can also aid in documenting the extent of your impairments. Qualifying for Social Security Disability Income under a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is not easy. Enlisting the assistance of a qualified disability attorney can greatly increase your chances for a successful claim.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Because of his extensive litigation experience Mr. Roach is board certified from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas trial lawyers association, has been active in the Austin Bar Association and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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