600 Days to Get a Disability Hearing

In today's Washington Post, a familiar story to those of us who represent people with disabilities: the Social Security Administration is underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. Congress has not given it the money it needs to do its job. The result: 986,000 people waiting for hearings to be scheduled and an average of 600 days from the time they asked for a hearing until the time they get it. Staggering numbers.

Staffing and service issues have plagued Social Security for years, and President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 would make things worse. The disability hearing process can be particularly vexing because there are too few administrative law judges, who hear appeals, and they have too few support staff members.

Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Fibromyalgia?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is “it’s difficult.” 

First, you need a confirmed diagnosis from a medical doctor (usually a rheumatologist) of fibromyalgia. supported by evidence that Social Security requires in order to establish the diagnosis. A diagnosis of fibromyalgia without the supporting evidence won't be enough. This supporting evidence includes: 

  • evidence of severe symptoms that have lasted at least three months
  • evidence that other conditions are not causing these symptoms
  • evidence of at least 11 of 18 tender points above and below the waist, and on both sides of the body, or at least six ongoing symptoms of fibromyalgia which include fatigue, problems with memory and/or concentration ( fibro fog), irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and unrestful sleep.

Even with a confirmed diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you still have more to prove. Social Security wants to know how your illness affects your ability to do work-related activities on a sustained basis, 8 hours per day, five days per week. This information comes from statements you’ve made to your doctors in your medical records, statements you’ve made to Social Security when you applied for benefits, and also, if you can get it, a statement from your rheumatologist in which he or she assesses your limitations regarding things like your ability to sit, stand, and walk, lift and carry, and maintain concentration and attendance at work.

If your doctor’s assessment is consistent with the medical evidence and generally supports a finding that you could not perform work on a sustained basis, you have a chance of winning your case.

These cases are difficult because there is no machine that can objectively measure the severity of your pain and fatigue. Much of the evidence about the severity of your condition comes from your own statements and those who know you well. Despite the "subjective" quality of these cases, however, they can be won! Don't give up. Call us should have any questions or concerns.

(If you want more information about how Social Security evaluates a disability claim based on fibromyalgia, take a look at Social Security Ruling 12-2p.)


April is National Social Security Month

April 2018 is the month Social Security celebrates its "promise of economic security for the nation's people." The focus of this year's celebration is on promotion of Social Security's suite of online services and planning tools. These include things like:

  • Replacing a Social Security card
  • Applying for retirement benefits
  • Applying for disability benefits
  • Getting your Social Security statement
  • Appealing a decision, and 
  • Estimating your future benefits

See what you can do online.

No One Heading an Agency that Provides Benefits to 60 Million Americans

This is Nancy Berryhill. Until recently, she was the Acting Commissioner of Social Security and had primary responsibility for administering programs under the Social Security Act. She still works at Social Security as the Deputy Commissioner of Operations. But she no longer holds the title of Acting Commissioner. The Washington Post reports:

The Social Security Administration is without a commissioner because during his 14 months in office Trump has nominated no one to the post. President Barack Obama nominated Carolyn W. Colvin, but she was not confirmed by the [Republican-controlled] Senate. Nancy A. Berryhill held the acting commissioner title from January 2017, when Trump was inaugurated, until Wednesday, the day after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled that her service violated the law because she had held that title beyond the permitted time.
Nancy Berryhill - Morton Disability Law.png

The vacancy creates problems for attorneys who appeal unfavorable Social Security disability decisions to federal court. Who do you sue? Typically, it is the Commissioner of Social Security but there is no Commissioner currently, not even on eon deck.

The answer may lie in a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Obama in October 2014 which addresses the order of succession within the Social Security Administration.  The Deputy Commissioner of Operations is designated as the first official to act and perform the functions of the Commissioner of Social Security when there is no Commissioner.  Pursuant to this memorandum, Nancy A. Berryhill appears to be leading the Social Security Administration in her capacity as Deputy Commissioner of Operations.