“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.