Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Social Security Disability Benefits

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have been known to affect an individual’s ability to continue to working on a daily basis. If your condition is so severe to the point that you can longer work, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Those who have a strong work history should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Those who do not should apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

You can learn more about SSDI and SSI, here (

Fibromyalgia/CFS and Qualifying Criteria for Disability Benefits

When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits you must be able to prove that your condition is so severe that you cannot possibly perform any type of gainful work activity. The SSA does have policy in place to approve claims for individuals who are suffering from these conditions. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on one of these conditions, however, you must be able to prove that your condition meets certain criteria.


In the case of fibromyalgia, you must be able to prove that:

  • You suffer from a history of widespread pain in all quadrants of the body and skeletal pain that has lasted for at least three months and is expected to last for at least 12 months
  • You are experiencing pain in at least 11 of the 18 tender point sites
  • There have been repeated manifestations of six or more FM symptoms or co-occurring conditions, especially manifestations of fatigue, cognitive problems or memory problems, waking un-refreshed, depression, anxiety disorders or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Other possible causes of the symptoms have been eliminated

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In the case of chronic fatigue syndrome, you must be able to prove that you have suffered from the following for a period of at least six consecutive months and that these symptoms are expected to last a minimum of 12 months:

  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Non-exudative pharyngitis
  • Persistent, reproducible muscle tenderness on repeated examinations, including the presence of positive tender points

Laboratory Evidence

In addition to providing the SSA with medical evidence proving that you are suffering from the above clinical criteria, you must also furnish the SSA with certain laboratory findings that indicate the severity of your condition.

In the case of fibromyalgia you must provide:

  • Complete blood counts
  • Lab results showing erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Anti-nuclear antibody test results
  • Thyroid function test results
  • Rheumatoid factor test results

In the case of chronic fatigue syndrome you must provide proof of:

  • An elevated antibody titer to Epstein-Barr virus capsid antigen equal to or greater than 1:5120 or early antigen equal to or greater than 1:640
  • An abnormal MRI brain scan
  • Neurally mediated hypotension as shown by tilt table testing or another clinically accepted form of testing
  • Other laboratory findings that are consistent with medically accepted clinical practice

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

To apply for the Social Security Disability benefits that you may be entitled to, you can apply online ( or in person at your local Social Security office. Make sure that you have your documentation and medical evidence ready at the time of your application. Do not forget that written statements from treating physicians outlining how your condition affects your ability to work can make or break your case when it comes to applying for benefits due to these conditions.

You may want to consult with a disability attorney prior to submitting your disability application. Statistics have shown that applicants who retain the services of a disability lawyer are more likely to be awarded benefits than applicants who do not. You do not have to worry about any upfront cost to hiring a disability attorney. Disability attorneys are not paid unless you are successfully awarded benefits.

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About Ram Meyyappan

Ram Meyyappan is the senior editor of Social Security Disability Help:

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