Tampa Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Attorneys
We Can Help You Fight For Social Security Benefits
In cases involving CFS it is particularly important to develop a longitudinal
record. This is because there is not test for CFS. It is a diagnosis of
exclusion. So the complaints of fatigue must be evidenced in the medical
records over a period of time and consistently. This is because the Social
Security Act itself requires that an individual establish disability based
on the existence of a medically determinable impairment; i.e., one that
can be shown by medical evidence, consisting of medical signs, symptoms
and laboratory findings. Disability may not be established on the basis
of an individual's statement of symptoms alone.
1. How is CFS defined for disability purposes?
CFS is a systemic disorder consisting of a complex of symptoms that may
vary in incidence, duration, and severity. It is characterized in part
by prolonged fatigue that lasts 6 months or more and results in substantial
reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or
personal activities. In accordance with criteria established by the Center
for Disease Control or CDC, a physician should make a diagnosis of CFS
``only after alternative medical and psychiatric causes of chronic fatiguing
illness have been excluded."
2. What symptoms are typically reported with CFS?
The current CDC definition of CFS requires the concurrence of 4 or more
of the following symptoms, all of which must have persisted or recurred
during 6 or more consecutive months of illness and must not have pre-dated
Self-reported impairment in short-term memory or concentration severe enough
to cause substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational,
social, or personal activities;
- Sore throat;
- Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes;
- Muscle pain;
- Multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness;
- Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity;
- Unrefreshing sleep; and
- Postexertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.
3. What laboratory findings support the diagnosis of CFS?
At this time, there are no specific laboratory findings that are widely
accepted as being associated with CFS. However, the absence of a definitive
test does not preclude reliance upon certain laboratory findings to establish
the existence of a medically determinable impairment.
But the following laboratory signs will be used to document a medically
determinable impairment with persons with CFS:
An elevated antibody titer to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) capsid antigen equal
to or greater than 1:5120, or early antigen equal to or greater than 1:640;
An abnormal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan;
Neurally mediated hypotension as shown by tilt table testing or another
clinically accepted form of testing; or,
Any other laboratory findings that are consistent with medically accepted
clinical practice and are consistent with the other evidence in the case
record; for example, an abnormal exercise stress test or abnormal sleep
studies, appropriately evaluated and consistent with the other evidence
in the case record.
4. What mental findings support a diagnosis of CFS?
Some individuals with CFS report ongoing problems with short-term memory,
information processing, visual-spatial difficulties, comprehension, concentration,
speech, word-finding, calculation, and other symptoms suggesting persistent
neurocognitive impairment. When ongoing deficits in these areas have been
documented by mental status examination or psychological testing, such
findings constitute medical signs or (in the case of psychological testing)
laboratory findings that establish the presence of a medically determinable
Individuals with CFS may also exhibit medical signs, such as anxiety or
depression, indicative of the existence of a mental disorder. When such
medical signs are present and appropriately documented, the existence
of a medically determinable impairment is established.
5. How long must my symptoms have been present to qualify for disability?
The medical signs and symptoms of CFS fluctuate in frequency and severity
and often continue over a period of many months or years. Thus, appropriate
documentation should include a longitudinal clinical record of at least
12 months prior to the date of application, unless the alleged onset of
CFS occurred less than 12 months in the past, or unless a fully favorable
determination or decision can be made without additional documentation.
The record should contain detailed medical observations, treatment, the
individual's response to treatment, and a detailed description of
how the impairment limits the individual's ability to function over time.
6. Can statements from other sources help my claim?
As with all Social Security claims, the rules of evidence in Social Security
cases is very relaxed. You can typically submit records from any source
about your case. Information from neighbors, friends, relatives, or clergy
about your condition is helpful. Statements from your past employers,
rehabilitation counselors, or school teachers about your impairment(s)
and the effects of the impairment(s) on your functioning in the work place,
rehabilitation facility, or educational institutions can also be helpful.
Contact Our Firm For Help In Your Case
If you would like to discuss your chronic fatigue claim with us, contact
the attorney's at the Tampa office of Harris & Riviere at (813)
229-2667, send us an
email or fill out one of our
case evaluation claim forms.