Fibromyalgia: Can it be Disabling?

Social Security has Impairment Listings for Heart Ailments, Back Ailments, etc. Fibromyalgia is not found among the Impairment Listings. Thus, an applicant cannot obtain a favorable disability “Impairment Listing” ruling because Fibromyalgia is not found among the Listings. The inquiry must proceed further.

Social Security has a five step disabilty process. First, if you are working, then the inquiry stops. Second, if you do not have a “severe impairment,” the inquiry stops. Third, if you are not working and you have a “severe impairment” the next inquiry is does your “severe impairment” meet or equal a Listed Impairment. You cannot win a fibromyalgia case at this step because there is no listing for fibromyalgia although it can be a “severe impairment” and get you past step two. Thus, with a fibromyalgia case, you will have to go to step four. At step four the judge must decide if you can do your past relevant work (PRW). This is any work you did in the past 15 years prior to your onset of disability. If the judge finds you cannot do PRW, then you go to step five which is can you do any other work in the national economy. All my fibromyalgia cases have gone to step five.

Social Security has begun to recognize fibromyalgia as a legitimate impairment:

On May 11, 1998 the Deputy Commissioner for Disability indicated as follows: Fibromyalgia is a disorder defined by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and we recognize it as medically determinable if there are signs that are clinically established by the medical record. The signs are primarily the tender points. The ACR defines the disorder in patients as “widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of 3 months and at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points which cluster around the neck and shoulder, chest, hip, knee, and elbow regions.” Other typical symptoms, some of which can be signs if clinically documented over time, are irritable bowel syndrome, chronic headaches, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, sleep disorder, severe fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction.

Thus, with the above in mind, you try to win a fibromyalgia case with a report from a doctor who specializes in arthritis or rheumatology and who can state the claimant’s case meets the above guidelines & the impairment is so severe it affects the claimant’s functions to such a degree the claimant cannot work. Of course, the doctor needs to itemize how the fibromyalgia adversely affects standing, walking, lifting, sitting, reaching, etc. The doctor’s treatment records need to support his disability report.

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Gerald G. Lutkenhaus, has been representing Social Security Disability claimants for 30 years in the Central Richmond Area in Virginia. He was given Martindale Hubbell’s highest rating in 2003, for more information check our websites at or or email us at

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