Social Security ruling provides guidance regarding chronic fatigue

Securing Social Security Disability benefits can be easier for some than for others. When the injury or condition that prevents one's ability to work is difficult to diagnose, getting approval for benefits can be problematic.

For people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, obtaining disability benefits can be difficult. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Income, it must be established that the applicant has what is referred to as a "medically determinable impairment," which prevents them from being able to work.

The Social Security Administration issued a Social Security Ruling this month, aimed at conveying information to the public, to provide guidance as to how the Administration views and evaluates claims involving chronic fatigue syndrome. It defines chronic fatigue syndrome as "a syndrome that causes prolonged fatigue lasting six months or more, resulting in a substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities." The ruling sets chronic fatigue syndrome apart from other "persistent fatigue" by stating that it has the following characteristics:

  • A new onset, rather than a condition that is life long
  • The inability to explain it by attributing the symptoms to another physical ailment or mental disorder
  • No link to other ongoing exertion
  • The inability to alleviate the condition with rest

Proving medical evidence of chronic fatigue syndrome

The Center for Disease Control has published a guide for the public, including a "Fact Sheet" with information about providing medical evidence to the Social Security Administration, for those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Healthcare professionals are requested to provide the following information pertaining to the existence of chronic fatigue syndrome, the level of severity of the syndrome, and the duration of the applicant's impairment.

Information from doctors should include the following:

  • Detailed and thorough medical history
  • Applicable lab and clinical findings
  • Copies of any and all lab results
  • The doctor's opinion regarding what employment-related activities, if any, the person may still be able to do, despite having chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Specific statements about physical and functional limitations, measured in physical and occupational therapy standards

Challenges faced by many applying for disability benefits

The recent Social Security Ruling further clarifies and explains some of the challenges faced by those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, relative to applying for disability benefits. Specifically, the ruling acknowledges that chronic fatigue syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, because symptoms vary greatly between individuals, and can even vary from day to day. Statutory and regulatory provisions require more than a mere diagnosis from a doctor; specific details of medical signs and laboratory findings must also be documented and presented. This often includes at least six consecutive months of clinically recorded medical signs including swollen or tender lymph nodes, viral infection with prolonged recovery, sinusitis, extreme pallor, and pronounced weight change.

If you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, and are unable to work due to the symptoms you experience, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits. In order to overcome the challenges many face when attempting to document and prove your inability to work due to the syndrome, hire an experienced Social Security attorney today, to assist you with your case.