Living with fibromyalgia is challenging enough in and of itself, but when your fibromyalgia has made it so you can no longer be self-supporting it becomes even more challenging. There are three types of disability benefits you can qualify for through the state and federal government: temporary unemployment disability through your state, Social Security Disability or Social Security Supplemental Security Income through the federal government. The process can be long and challenging to get disability benefits from the government for fibromyalgia, but it is possible.
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Things you need
- Documentation from your doctors and specialists
- Required disability paperwork
- Contact information for your local Social Security office
Start by using the online Social Security's Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) to see if you qualify for disability. If you have a working spouse or if you are working yourself, it can be difficult to get disability benefits. If you have been out of work and can document through your medical records and letters from your doctors and specialists that your fibromyalgia makes you unfit to work, then you would have a chance at getting disability. It's best if you've been seeing your doctor for at least a year or longer because your doctor would be able to better determine that you are in too much pain or too fatigued to work by being familiar with your medical history as well as having a relationship with you.
You may be able to get disability if your doctors say you can only work very little. The amount of work allowed varies based on your disability and the income you earn while working. It is unlikely that you will be approved for Social Security Disability benefits while working more than twenty hours a week.
There are two kinds of Social Security benefits, Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI benefits are based on prior work and SSI is based on financial need. Both programs benefit people with disabilities. SSDI bases the benefit you receive on prior income you've earned throughout your life. SSI bases the benefit you would receive if you qualify on financial need and your living arrangements.
Make an appointment with your local Social Security office. Fill out your forms in advance by going to the Common Social Security Forms web page listed in the resource section. Follow the guidelines listed there to prepare for your interview.
Obtain a copy of your medical records and any letters from your doctors. Letters from your doctor can add weight to your case by specifically verifying why it is not possible for you to work due to your fibromyalgia.
Bring someone from your support structure to all of your appointments so that she can assist you in filing out paper work and taking notes.
Make an appointment with a lawyer specialising in disability. Consult your lawyer to see if she thinks that you have a good case for receiving disability through Social Security. If she does, she will be willing to work with you on the basis of being paid a portion of your benefit; she will not ask you for an hourly fee.
Pinpoint the symptoms of fibromyalgia that are keeping you from being able to work. Make sure to be consistent about these symptoms in your paperwork and in your interviews. Be prepared to have your initial claim request denied. You will then need to appeal your claim within 60 days. Be prepared to have this request denied as well, as only 18 per cent get approved at the appeal stage. If you are denied, appeal your claim again within 60 days.
Prepare your case to go in front of a federal administrative law judge with your lawyer. Have as much documentation as possible from your doctors and follow your lawyer's instructions. There is a 68 per cent success rate at this level.
Tips and warnings
- If you are unemployed, you may be able to get temporary state disability benefits. The length of time you receive them for varies from state to state, but it could help support you during the case.
- The whole process is likely to take at least eight months. Have an action plan on how you will support yourself during that time.
- Even if your claim is approved, it could be approved only for a specific amount of time, such as two years. You would then have to go through a review process.
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