This blog has recently explored how the Social Security Administration (SSA) will decide whether one has a medically determinable impairment (MDI) of fibromyalgia. Today, we look at how the SSA determines that an applicant in Tennessee or nationwide is disabled for the purposes of awarding disability benefits based on an MDI of fibromyalgia.

In general, the SSA will take into consideration the severity of the applicant’s illness, whether the illness is medically equivalent to the requisites of a listed illness and whether the illness keeps the applicant from performing his or her past work or any other significant work. There are five steps to the evaluation process.

First, the SSA will examine the applicant’s work activity. If the applicant is able to perform substantial gainful activity, the applicant will not be considered disabled for purpose of disability benefits.

Second, the SSA will examine whether the applicant’s MDI is severe. If the applicant’s pain or other symptoms limits or restricts his or her ability to carry out basic work activities, the SSA may find that the individual’s MDI is severe.

Third, the SSA will examine whether the applicant’s illness either meets or is medically equivalent to the criteria of an illness listed in the Listing of Impairments. Fibromyalgia, on its own, is not a listed illness. Therefore, the SSA will need to decide whether the applicant’s fibromyalgia is medically equivalent to an illness that is listed.

Fourth, the SSA will examine the applicant’s residual functional capacity. All relevant evidence will be assessed by the SSA. This includes all of the effects of the applicant’s MDI, even those that are not severe. For example, when an applicant has fibromyalgia, the SSA will considered a longitudinal record, as the symptoms of fibromyalgia can come and go.

Fifth, the SSA will examine whether the applicant is able to do either any past work or other significant work. Fibromyalgia can cause widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms that might prevent an applicant from working, due to exertional or non-exertional limitations.

In the end, while this post cannot promise any specific result when it comes to applying for disability benefits based on fibromyalgia, it does give a general overview of the SSA’s determination process. Fibromyalgia sufferers experience a wide host of disabling symptoms, so it is imperative that they receive the benefits they need to stay financially afloat if they cannot work.

Source:, “SSR 12-2p: Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Fibromyalgia,” accessed on Sept. 2, 2016

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