Chronic fatigue syndrome refers to several poorly understood medical conditions that can cause extreme fatigue for at least six months.
It is unknown what causes chronic fatigue syndrome, though researchers believe that the condition may be associated with viral infections or immune system issues.
The condition affects all genders, but women are more likely to be diagnosed than men. Many of those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome are around forty to sixty years old.
You may have chronic fatigue syndrome if you experience mental and physical exhaustion frequently over long periods of time. This fatigue will likely interfere with sleeping and other daily activities, often resulting in reduced cognitive functions.
Other symptoms include muscle and joint paint, headaches, and depression. These other symptoms persist episodically for six consecutive months or longer.
Because so little is known about chronic fatigue syndrome, there is no definitive test to diagnose the condition. Doctors must first rule out other medical problems, including sleep disorders, mental disorders, and HIV/AIDS.
This also means that there is difficulty in getting individuals or their families to accept the existence of the condition. Yet the effects can be debilitating; while some people with chronic fatigue syndrome can lead ordinary lives, others are unable to leave their bed and are left isolated.
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome varies, but many patients will receive antidepressants or pain relievers to treat the associated symptoms. Exercise and other physical therapies can improve functioning as well.
To determine your eligibility for disability benefits with the chronic fatigue symptoms you are experiencing, look over the SSA's guide of disabling conditions with your doctor.
Using an RFC
The Social Security Administration is the agency that oversees disability claims, and while the Blue Book is fairly comprehensive when it comes to evaluating applications it is not exhaustive. It is possible for your condition to not meet the Blue Book guidelines but still prevent you from working, and that’s where the Residual Function Capacity form (RFC) comes in.
The RFC form outlines the maximum amount of work you are capable of performing with your condition. It must be filled out by your physician so that the SSA knows that the form was filled out by a medical expert who has specific knowledge of your condition, but you should work with your doctor to ensure that the RFC form accurately represents your abilities to work, or not work.
Part of the RFC determines your ability to perform physical and mental work. Physical work includes things like being able to stand, sit, walk, lift and carry things, to reach for something or to bend over. Mental work includes your ability to communicate as well as the ability to read, and to remember and follow directions.
The SSA will use the information in the RFC form to determine whether you could either remain at your current job and perform modified tasks based on your condition, or whether you might be able to perform other work based on your work history and education.
If you are found to be able to perform modified work, then you are not considered disabled. However, if your RFC determines that your condition prevents you from working entirely, then you might be considered disabled even though your condition did not match the guidelines in the Blue Book.
For example, if your job involves standing up all day, but your condition prevents you from standing, then an accommodation might be for you to sit down while working.
If this is an acceptable accommodation, then you would not be considered disabled because it allows you to work with your condition. But if you are in too much pain to move around, then the RFC might indicate that you are unable to sit or stand, in which case there might not be an accommodation.
The RFC, then, becomes a very important part of your disability application, and for people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome there are often highly individualized side effects that might prevent you from working that your doctor can observe and document in your RFC form.
If you plan to file for disability, make sure you work with your doctor early on in the application process to ensure that he or she can help document as much information about your condition as possible.
There are several programs available from the Social Security Administration that can help you if you suffer from a medical condition that impacts your ability to work, but when it comes to qualifying for Social Security disability benefits, you must be completely incapable of working due to your condition.
You ability to collect disability benefits is not based on income, so you can apply for and possibly receive benefits regardless of your earnings. In order to apply you must have paid Social Security taxes during your work history, and you must have a predetermined number of work credits.
Generally, you need 40 work credits to apply, with 20 of those credits earned within the past 10 years. You earn four work credits each year that your income surpasses a certain amount, which changes every year.
The number of work credits changes based on the age at which you become disabled. If you have worked full time for ten years then you would have the 40 credits needed to apply, but if you become disabled at a young age or if you only worked part time over the course of your work history, then you might not have enough credits.
There is a sliding scale based on age available to help people with their work credits. For example, if you are between 31 and 42 then you would only need 20 work credits to apply for benefits.
What You Can Spend Your SSDI Money On
The reason people apply for Social Security disability benefits is so that they can pay their living expenses while being unable to work. There are no limits to how you can spend your disability benefits, but they should be used to pay rent, buy food and cover the costs of your treatment, including doctor co-pays, prescription medications and any other associated costs.
Applying for Social Security Disability with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
While there is no specific Blue Book listing for chronic fatigue syndrome, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. You will need to meet the criteria for one of the listings in the guide.
The key to being approved for disability benefits is in the way that you present your claim. You will need significant medical evidence of your condition and symptoms.
Because there is no definitive diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome, we suggest using the following types of records:
- Evidence of swollen or tender lymph nodes
- Evidence of non-exudative pharyngitis
- Persistent, reproducible muscle tenderness
- Written statements from treating physicians regarding your condition and limitations
If you are awarded benefits, it will likely be through a medical vocational allowance. The Social Security Administration will look into your work history and consider any skills you have in order to determine what your remaining functional capacity is.
If you are unable to do any previous jobs or the Social Security Administration finds that you cannot adjust to other types of work, you may be awarded Social Security disability benefits. Be prepared to supply substantial medical records and doctor's notes that support the severity of your claim.
Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Case
Because the application process can be difficult, you may want to hire a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to assist you with your claim.
These attorneys are experts on the application process and disability law. They will help you prepare for the application and can also present your claim to the Social Security Administration.
Disability attorneys are usually paid from back pay awarded when you are approved for benefits. Otherwise, many take no pay if you are unable to qualify. Hiring a disability attorney is a crucial part of being approved for Social Security disability benefits with chronic fatigue syndrome.
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