The information in this booklet is invaluable to those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Fibromyalgia (FM) who cannot work and are seeking financial stability. The Table of Contents is displayed below.

Most of the material in this Handbook remains very current in 2015. However, some detailed information such as the income and asset eligibility for SSI change periodically. Importantly the section: “The 1999 Social Security Ruling...Evaluating Cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", is now outdated and should be ignored. The new Ruling of 2014 is now used for evaluating ME/CFS disability cases.

You can read the new Ruling at the social Security Administration website. Read the Ruling.
Also, you can read our detailed evaluation of the 2014 ME/CFS Ruling

Our Disability Handbook will be revised and updated in the near future.

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Table of Contents


  • Eligibility for Social Security Disability Programs
  • Disability Eligibility Standard for SSDI and SSI
  • Financial Eligibility Standards for SSDI
  • Financial Eligibility Standards for SSI
  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled & Children Program (EAEDC)
  • Food Stamps and Fuel Assistance

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits if You Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

I. The Application Process

II. When to Obtain a Lawyer

III. When to Apply for Disability

IV. Your Doctors' Letters to Social Security

  • Letters from Your Primary Care Physician
  • Obtaining a CFS Diagnosis
  • An Explanation of the 1994 Centers for Disease Control CFS Case Definition
  • Documenting the Diagnosis to Social Security
  • The 1999 "Social Security Ruling...Evaluating Cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome"
  • Letters from Your Primary Care Physician (continued)
  • Supplementary Diagnostic Materials
  • Documenting Your Inability to Perform Tasks
  • Cognitive Dysfunction: Its Limiting Effects on a PWC's Ability to Work

V. Your Description of the Disabling Effects of Your Illness

VI. Contacting your Congressman about your Social Security DisabilityApplication

Appendix I: Diagnosing the illnesses

The official Diagnostic Criteria for CFS (CFIDS) And Fibromyalgia

Appendix II: Helping Your Doctor Document Your Illness to Social Security (and to Other Disability Carriers)

A. Memo from a disability lawyer.; Recommended documentation of CFS Disability Claim to be Submitted to Social Security and/or for Private/Employer Disability

B. Checklist of CFIDS Symptoms

C. Some Tests to be Conducted to Help Determine Objectivity of CFS/CFIDS and/or Disabling Symptoms

D. Excerpts from previous Social Security Administration Documents which provide guidelines for documenting CFS disability.

  • Excerpts from "Documentation for the Social Security Administration's Adjudication of Disability Claims Involving the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome." 1997.
  • Excerpts from the Social Security Fact Sheet - publication #64-063:
  • "Providing Medical Evidence to the Social Security Administration for Individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - A Guide for Health Professionals"

E. Incapacity Checklist

F. Sample Doctor's Letters Documenting CFS Disability

G. Helping Your Doctor Prepare Your Medical Report

Appendix III: How to Prepare for an Administrative Law Judge Hearing (3rd Stage)

  • 3 Memos from a disability lawyer.
  • Updated (1994) Specific Suggestions on Preparing for the Social Security Hearing
  • Necessary Elements in Preparation for Social Security Appeal Hearing of a CFS Disability Case and Further Suggestions

Appendix IV: The Use of a Diagnosis of Depression or Other Mental Impairments in a CFIDS Social Security Application


A. The "Legal Services" Position: The positive use of secondary depression and mental impairment in a disability application.

  • Problems which may develop between CFS patients and their attorneys regarding documentation or submission of mental impairment, diagnoses.
  • Issues of cognitive dysfunction and neuropsychological testing

B. The case for avoiding, if possible, the use of depression or other mental impairment diagnosis a CFS disability application.

Appendix V: Landmark Federal Court Decision

  • Establishes Right of Persons Diagnosed with and Disabled by CFIDS to Obtain Social Security Benefits.
  • Additional Federal Court decisions granting CIDS and fibromyalgia disability claims.

Appendix VI: Disability Case Reviews

Appendix VII: Other Disability Insurance Programs

I. Disability Insurance through Your Employer

II. Disability Retirement Benefits for State Employees and Teachers (Massachusetts)

Addendum I: Plans for Achieving Self-Support While Receiving Supplemental Security Income