Qualifying For Disability Benefits With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.  Because there is no medical test to diagnose CFS, you may need to undergo a variety of tests to rule out other medical conditions with similar symptoms.

You can qualify for disability benefits based upon a diagnosis for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) if it impacts your ability to work.  You must be out of work, or expected to be out of work, for at least twelve (12) months.  Social Security (SSA) will then analyze your claim using the five step sequential evaluation process.  For a detailed discussion on the five step sequential evaluation process, see other posts here.  Essentially, SSA will evaluate whether you can perform your past work, and if not, will then analyze whether there are any jobs you can transition to.

To be approved for disability benefits, you must suffer from at least four of the following symptoms for a period exceeding six months:

  • muscle pain
  • pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling
  • memory or concentration problems that cause a serious reduction in your activities
  • frequent sore throats
  • tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm
  • headaches of a different quality than before onset of chronic fatigue
  • sleep that does not refresh you, and
  • a general feeling of being unwell that lasts at least 24 hours following a period of exertion.

SSA will review your medical records, test results and any other evidence that you submit to determine your eligibility for benefits.  It may also be helpful to have your treating physician provide a statement detailing your limitations.