Article Index

1. Was the diagnosis made by a rheumatologist or other specialist familiar with FM?

I am always surprised (and skeptical) when a person calls or comes to meet with me and says s/he has FM and/or ME/CFS, but it was not a rheumatologist or other specialist who made the diagnosis. Other medical doctors can and do make the diagnosis of FM, but many use the terms FM/CFS generically and more as a description of a patients' symptoms rather than making the diagnosis following the American College of Rheumatology's (ACR) 1990 Criteria for Fibromyalgia [which has now changed as of 2010—Ed] or using the CFS1994 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) criteria.

If you learn one piece of information from this article, let it be this: It is critical your diagnosis is either made or confirmed by a rheumatologist or specialist.

If not, you risk having SSA and/or an ALJ rejecting the diagnosis altogether, which could be fatal to your claim. Whether or not you (or your diagnosing doctor) agree with SSA's position, it is senseless to try to fight the system. Addressing this issue is always my first priority in representing a FM/CFIDS client.

Second, if a rheumatologist has not made the diagnosis, find one (a.s.a.p.!) who is board-certified and sympathetic to your diagnosis and disability claim.

Eventually, you or your attorney will need to obtain opinions from him/her regarding how the diagnosis was made along with your inability to work. An unsupportive and/or uncooperative rheumatologist (or any treating physician for that matter!) can create real and sometimes insurmountable obstacles to winning your case. Why? Because you can bet SSA will  have its own doctor who will tell the ALJ you are able to work. 

How do you find a supportive doctor? FM/CFIDS support groups are a good place to find a referral.