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Fibromyalgia: Work and Disability

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Can I Get Disability Because of Fibromyalgia?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. Therefore, some people with fibromyalgia will have a disability under the ADA and others will not.

Because fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose -- typically, health care providers rule out other conditions through a physical exam and various blood tests  -- it's important that you do your homework before you apply for disability. 

There is a blood test that may help diagnose fibromyalgia. The test -- called FM/a -- identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. Because the test is new, insurance may not cover it. Ask your doctor if the FM/a test is right for you. 

According to federal regulations, to qualify for disability you must prove that you have a severe impairment. You also need to prove that the impairment limits your physical or mental ability to do work.

The Social Security disability regulations define disability as "the inability to do any substantial gainful activity due to your medical or mental problem." In addition, according to the Social Security Administration, your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. If it doesn't, your claim won't be considered. Instead, Social Security will find that you are not disabled.

The combined effect of having multiple impairments is taken into account. That can be important for many people with fibromyalgia. You must be unable to do your previous work or any other substantial gainful activity. Your age and education are considered, as well as your remaining abilities and your work experience.

 

How Do I Apply for Disability?

To apply for disability benefits, call your Social Security office. Much of the information may be provided over the phone, by mail, or the Internet. You will be asked specific questions about how you have trouble with daily activities. And you will need to be as specific as you can, describing your limitations and why you cannot work. You will be asked to give the names and addresses of your doctors. The Social Security office will contact each one for records.

What Other Proof Must I Provide for Disability?

Describing your fibromyalgia symptoms alone will not qualify you for Social Security disability. You have to be specific about signs and physical findings related to fibromyalgia and pain and how that impacts your ability to work. The Social Security staff will consider all your symptoms, including pain.

All of this information considered together must lead to a conclusion that you are disabled before you will be granted disability with benefits. If more detailed information is needed, you may have to be examined by a doctor approved by the Social Security Administration.

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