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Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Eligible for Federal Disability Benefits?

worker rubbing nose at deskAre you or a loved one suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome?

This condition can make it extremely difficult to hold down a job and engage in other activities. Prolonged feelings of exhaustion can affect you mentally as well as physically, making it hard to concentrate and remember things. You may also experience chronic pain and headaches, among many other symptoms.

Even though this condition is not specifically listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book, the SSA made a ruling in 1999 that chronic fatigue syndrome is a medically determinable impairment. That means you may be able to obtain federal disability benefits.

However, getting approved for benefits is a challenge. You need strong evidence to show your medical issues meet federal criteria for a disability. Trying to collect all the evidence you need is a challenge on your own.

Applicants who hire an attorney to assist them have an advantage. You may be more likely to obtain benefits if you are represented by an attorney. At Schmidt Kramer, our Harrisburg Social Security Disability lawyers work on contingency, which means there are no upfront fees.

Contact us today to learn more: (717) 727-1403.

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Defined?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is sort of an umbrella term that refers to a variety of symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms are referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created a set of diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome. According to these criteria, if you have four or more of the following symptoms and they last six months or more, you could be diagnosed with CFS:

  • Fatigue that you cannot relieve with sleep
  • Significant trouble with remembering things or concentrating that causes you to limit activities
  • Joint pain that is not accompanied by swelling or redness
  • Neck and arm lymph nodes that are tender
  • Headaches that feel different than they did before symptoms started
  • Throat soreness
  • Feeling ill for 24 hours after physical exertion
  • Pain in your muscles

It is important to note that even if you are experiencing four of the symptoms listed above, doctors must rule out other causes before they can diagnose you with chronic fatigue syndrome.

This list of symptoms created by the CDC has also been endorsed by the Social Security Administration. That means that if you meet these criteria, you may be eligible for federal disability benefits.

How Does Social Security Determine Eligibility for Benefits?

Since there is no specific listing for chronic fatigue syndrome, the SSA must establish that you have a medically determinable impairment that will last for at least a year. You will need objective medical evidence to prove you are suffering from this impairment, such as test results and/or a diagnosis from the doctor.

However, you must also prove you are unable to work because of your symptoms. That means the Social Security Administration must do a residual functional capacity assessment. The goal of this assessment is to determine the amount of work you can do. Your doctor must complete the assessment because he or she has specific knowledge of your condition.

Your doctor must assess whether you are able to complete the physical tasks involved in your job, such as your ability to:

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Walk
  • Lift
  • Carry heavy things
  • Bend over
  • Reach to grab things

Your doctor also needs to assess your ability to do the mental work involved in your job. For example, can you concentrate long enough and remember important details? Can you solve problems that may come up at your job?

The SSA takes the information provided by your doctor and determines if you have the physical and mental capacity to continue doing your job. They will also assess if there are accommodations that could be made to allow you to continue working in the same capacity or at a different capacity.

The SSA needs to consider the specific details of your situation to determine if you can still work with your symptoms. For example, standing, lifting heavy things or doing a lot of walking may not be possible because of joint pain or fatigue. However, it may be possible to modify your work so you can complete it while sitting.

If you cannot remember things as well as you used to or summon the concentration necessary to do your job, you may be considered disabled, according to the federal definition. That said, despite your symptoms, you may still be able to work fewer hours.

Each situation is unique. You may be unable to work without taking frequent breaks. Will your employer allow frequent breaks? Most will not, but it depends on how frequent those breaks need to be taken.

Another factor to consider is that you may have symptoms associated with your chronic fatigue syndrome that make it difficult to work. You may suffer from mental illness, such as depression. It is possible that your depression makes it impossible to perform the mental tasks associated with your job. This, combined with your physical limitations, may mean you are disabled and qualify for federal disability benefits.

While you may be unable to do the job you were doing before the onset of symptoms, you may still be able to do another job. This is something the SSA will assess when determining whether to approve your application for benefits.

Unsure About Benefit Eligibility? Call Us Today

Our experienced attorneys know how to build a strong case for why someone should be approved for benefits. If you have been unable to work because of chronic fatigue or another medical condition that has been documented by your doctor, we may be able to help you apply for benefits.

Call us today to schedule your free initial consultation with a licensed attorney. It can take time for the SSA to approve an application for benefits, no matter how strong the application is. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we may be able to get started helping you.

We do not charge upfront fees for our services. Call: (717) 727-1403.