Why is it so Hard to Get Disability for Fibromyalgia

is fibromyalgia a disability

Image: Pixabay/Kaboompics

“Is fibromyalgia a disability?” It’s a question you’ve probably asked at some point if you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. There’s no doubt that fibromyalgia pain can get so severe that it makes performing daily tasks close to impossible. So in a strict sense fibromyalgia is a disability in the sense that it can make you disabled.

But, when you’re asking “is fibromyalgia a disability?” the real question you need to ask is “does the law recognize it as one?” So let’s take a look at how the government defines disability, whether fibromyalgia fits that standard, and how you can go about getting your fibromyalgia recognized as being a legal disability.

Is Fibromyalgia A Disability?

For a condition to be recognized under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), it must cause an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. By that standard it would seem like fibromyalgia is a slam dunk for qualifying, right? I mean, pain so severe that you can’t get out of bed? That’s an impairment by any definition. And fibromyalgia is recognized on the list of disabilities covered by the ADA.

But the reality is that like with everything involving the government, it’s not quite that simple.

See, having a condition officially recognized as a disability means you become eligible for the few benefits the government is required to provide under the ADA, and employers have to make reasonable accommodations for your disability. That’s why they erected a number of hoops you’re going to have to go through to get your disability recognized.

Why It’s Hard To Get Your Fibromyalgia Certified As A Disability

Just because fibromyalgia is officially recognized doesn’t mean that your fibromyalgia will be. You have to be able to prove that your disease is so disabling that it impairs your life. And that can be tough to do with fibromyalgia for a few reasons.

First, as every fibro sufferer knows, fibromyalgia doesn’t leave any outward signs that you have it. Which means you always run the risk of being accused of faking it. And far too many people with fibromyalgia have suffered through that at one point or another. In the eyes of the law, this shouldn’t be a barrier to getting your disability recognized, but in practice, of course, it does.

Someone with a disease with visible symptoms, like Parkinson’s, usually finds it easier to get a disability request approved simply due to the fact that doctors and officials can see their symptoms.

Second, to get fibromyalgia recognized you need documentation from a doctor proving that you have fibromyalgia and it is severe enough to be disabling. And of course, that’s difficult to do because so many doctors really don’t understand fibromyalgia. And many don’t think to look for it when you come in complaining of pain and fatigue.

So not only do you have to get over all of the legal hurdles for getting your fibromyalgia disability recognized, you can’t even start until you find a doctor who knows enough about fibromyalgia to diagnose it correctly.

How To Get Your Fibromyalgia Certified

The first thing you need to do is find the right doctor. Here are some resources for finding a doctor who specializes in the condition. Having a knowledgeable doctor who can advise you through the process of getting your disability recognized and provide the medical documentation you need makes a huge difference.

Second, you’ll have to go about gathering all those documents and providing all the proof required by the government to have your disability recognized. This can take months of tedious visits to government agencies, which is a tough thing to do when you need to work or have already had to leave your job and are living on savings.

Even with that proof, you’ll be shuttling back and forth between agencies trying to get your disability recognized as the disability it clearly is to you.That’s just one of the things that make the life of someone with fibromyalgia even harder.

In so many ways, fibromyalgia sufferers just don’t get the support they need. They are victims of a terrible disease and then made victims again by unfair laws and a lack of public understanding. It makes fibromyalgia something of an invisible disability. People can suffer from it for decades without being able to get a diagnosis that provides them with the proof they need to get their disability recognized as actually being a disability.

And that is a profound injustice to people who suffer from this disease.

“Is fibromyalgia a disability?” Absolutely. And it’s time we started recognizing it and getting everyone with fibromyalgia the help they need.



Comments 5

Starr Callies says:
I think Mr Redd has done all of us a great disfavor. Although many states use different criteria, I will explain how many other states operate.
You get a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia from your Dr. and you say you are disabled.
The State wants to know this: can you feed yourself, can you prepare your own meals,
Can you bathe by yourself, can you use the bathroom by yourself, and can you dress yourself. The States usually require you to answer yes to 4 out of 5 disabilities.
They don’t care if you have to crawl to the bathroom nor do they care that you can only micro wave some food. Those are the requirements (in general).
They do not care that you can’t take care of your children or drive them to soccer practice.
Those listed previously are what you must know. And that is what you must answer.
Can I do these things. Really.
There is usually a long form to fill out.
They ask you the same questions 3 different ways. If you are not consistent with your answers your claim will be denied.
You can resubmit your application along with your current medical records and 5 months later you my be approved. Most claims are out of hand denied on the first submission.
But with enough medical records documenting your illness it will be approved
I will say that the state of California operates
exactly that way because they know many
people will give up.
In California almost all first submissions of a claim are denied.
You don’t need a attorney to fill out those forms. That’s just giving away your retroactive
You must be smarter than the system.
Any info that helps define your condition needs to be submitted with your claim
Example, I went to 13 different doctors before
I found a Dr that knew what was going on.
Everyone of those Dr’s reports, I submitted with my claim. It showed I was relentless
in my quest to find a diagnosis.
Every piece of lab work, every medication that was prescribed and didn’t help you send with your claim.
Eventually I received a notice for an appointment to be interviewed by the state.
Had a nice conversation with a very nice woman who said I was approved.
and I got a check for 5 months of disability
(that was retroactive) and then monthly checks.
I helped a relative submit an application,
(Not Fibromyalgia related). I had all copies of office visits, labs, and documentation that went back to childhood issues.
I created a timeline of problems, going back to letters from school, special testing, reports of
behaviour etc etc.
slam bam APPROVED upon the first submission. It is incumbent upon the patient to be their own best advocate.
Go online, reasearch, educate yourself, post questions on social media.
Keep digging. Know who is the foremost authority on Fibromyalgia.
Search teaching hospitals, doesn’t matter where it is located, you want research.
You can write to specialists and ask if they know a doctor in your area that will help you.
It is a journey not for the feint of heart.
I know this is way too much info, but who the heck is Wyatt Rudd? (author) The guy who wrote this crap
And knows nothing about what WE go through.

Take the high road, find the humor and move on.

Cindy Holman says:
At some point this is going to have to change for fibro sufferers. I am finding more and more like me that rarely even leave their homes anymore. It’s just too hard. It IS disabling. Thanks you for telling us what you went thru and outlining what we should keep track of regardless of where we live. I have 3 Drs that diagnosed me. Been dealing with it for over 15 years. Gave up my job because of it.
Allison Novak says:
Apparently the link to nfra is a dead end. Both my chrome and Firefox browser state the DNS server address could not be found. Any other suggestions for organizations that offer links to local Fibromyalgia​ experts? No luck for me locally, even at the Medicare website.

Thank you.

Wyatt Redd says:
Hello Allison,

Try this link and let me know if it works for you.




Allison Novak says:
Thank you very much, Wyatt! The link does indeed work.