Legal Issues: SS Disability
Research has shown that up to half of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients are unemployed due to their illness. Many of them depend on disability insurance, and especially programs provided by the U.S. government's Social Security Administration (SSA), to make ends meet.
There are two disability programs funded by the federal government:
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI is an insurance program for workers who become disabled. To
qualify, a person must have worked five of the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled (adults under
age 31 have less stringent work requirements).
SSI is an insurance program for disabled children or economically
disadvantaged adults who have not accumulated enough years of work to qualify for SSDI.
Both programs require that a person has a disability that 1) is expected
to last at least 12 months or result in death and 2) precludes him or her from working in any job available in
the economy. Some long term disability insurance policies will compensate you if you can't work in your current occupation, but Social Security has more stringent rules.
In 1999, SSA issued a policy ruling on CFS that is a legal mandate for all CFS disability
claims. This ruling, SSR 99-2p, was written to standardize and speed CFS-related disability decision-making
Even with the ruling, it is essential to have through documentation
of the functional limitations your illness imposes. It is practically impossible to obtain disability
benefits without the help of a medical professional who supports your application for disability. Many CFS patients have also recommended hiring a Social Security-knowledgeable attorney to help them through the process, although others have successfully obtained benefits without legal counsel.
We offer free, downloadable Fact Sheets on disability they are asily reproducible and are ideal for distribution to health care professionals, family members and the general public. You can also purchase Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants - by attorney Doug Smith; guides you through the process of applying for SSDI benefits.