Social Security Disability and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a terrible disease that afflicts at least 5 million U.S. residents. It is characterized by chronic widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, stiffness, impaired memory and concentration, anxiety and depression. Even though the American College of Rheumatology recognizes the disease of fibromyalgia the Social Security Administration has been slow to accept it as justification to find a claimant disabled.

Chief Judge Posner of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court wrote in Sarchet v. Charter, 78 F.3d 305, 306 (7th Cir. 1996) that fibromyalgia could be the basis for an award of disability. Judge Posner described fibromyalgia as a:

“common, but elusive and mysterious, disease. . . its cause or causes are unknown, there is no cure, and, of greatest importance to disability law, its symptoms are entirely subjective. There are no laboratory tests for the presence or severity of fibromyalgia. The principal symptoms are “pain all over,” fatigue, disturbed sleep, stiffness, and–the only symptom that discriminates between it and other diseases of a rheumatic character–multiple tender spots, more precisely 18 fixed locations on the body (and the rule of thumb is that the patient must have at least 11 of them to be diagnosed as having fibromyalgia) that when pressed firmly cause the patient to flinch.”
Judge Posner noted that “some people may have such a severe case of fibromyalgia as to be totally disabled from working. . . but most do not and the question is whether Sarchet is one of the minority.”

Without question, fibromyalgia is a disease which can have debilitating consequences. It certainly can serve as the basis for a disabilty claim. The question is how severe is the disease at the time a claimant is seeking disabilty.

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