I have talked with a number of individuals seeking disability benefits because they suffer from fibromyalgia. The phone calls often begin with “no one will take my case because I have fibromyalgia and they say I cannot prove it.” While it is true that fibromyalgia cases can be challenging, as many cases are determined by the credibility of the claimant, you should not give up on your claim because it has been called “difficult.” Instead, it is important to support your claims of pain, fatigue, inability to concentrate and other symptoms of fibromyalgia with credible medical evidence. For example, in Foley v. Barnhart, 432 F.Supp.2d 465, 480 (M.D.Pa.2005), the Court noted that a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is a disease that may lack objective medical evidence, making the claimant’s complaints important to the disability determination. In the same decision, the Court noted that a claimant’s complaints will be more credible where a doctor has diagnosed fibromyalgia.
In a recent case, I was able to secure a favorable decision for a client with fibromyalgia. During the hearing, we presented the testimony of our client, noting her inability to care for herself, her inability to complete basic household chores and her increasing inability to leave her home except for medical appointments. We also presented the testimony of her husband who described for the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) how he and other family members had become responsible for taking care of our client and confirming her lack of activity. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ sought the opinion of a “medical expert.” The expert, without ever examining our client, concluded that her complaints of pain were not serious enough to find her disabled. We filed an objection to the opinion and requested a second hearing to question the expert and to produce our own medical testimony. At the second hearing, we presented testimony from our client’s treating physician who confirmed the client’s reports of pain and her increasing difficulty walking. At the conclusion of the hearing the expert changed his opinion and concluded that our client’s impairments equaled a medical listing. The ALJ issued a fully favorable decision.
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, you should not give up on your disability claim because it may be “difficult.” Instead, it is important to secure the necessary medical evidence and present it in a manner that will support your claims of pain, fatigue and other symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia.