SSA Publishes SSR 14-1 on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

On April 3, 2014, the Social Security Administration published notice of Social Security Ruling (SSR) 14-1p, “Evaluating Claims Involving Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).”  In publishing SSR 14-1p, the SSA rescinds SSR 99-2p.  SSR 14-1p is effective April 3, 2014.  Pertinent parts of SSR 14-1p follow below:

PURPOSE: This SSR clarifies our policy on how we develop evidence to establish that a person has a medically determinable impairment (MDI) of CFS and how we evaluate this impairment in disability claims and continuing disability reviews under titles II and XVI the Social Security Act (Act).

 We require that an MDI result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities, as shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.  The Act and our regulations further require that the impairment be established by medical evidence that consists of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings; therefore, a claimant may not be found disabled on the basis of a person’s statement of symptoms alone.  In this SSR, we explain that CFS, when accompanied by appropriate medical signs or laboratory findings, is an MDI that can be the basis for a finding of “disability.” We also explain how we evaluate CFS claims.

 In accordance with the CDC case definition of CFS, a physician should make a diagnosis of CFS “only after alternative medical and psychiatric causes of chronic fatiguing illness have been excluded.”

 Under the CDC case definition, the hallmark of CFS is the presence of clinically evaluated, persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that:

    • Is of new or definite onset (that is, has not been lifelong);
    • Cannot be explained by another physical or mental disorder;
    • Is not the result of ongoing exertion;
    • Is not substantially alleviated by rest; and
    • Results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities.

The CDC case definition requires the concurrence of 4 or more specific symptoms that persisted or recurred during 6 or more consecutive months of illness and did not pre-date the fatigue:

    • Postexertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours (which may be the most common secondary symptom);
    • Self-reported impairment(s) in short-term memory or concentration severe enough to cause substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities;
    • Sore throat;
    • Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes;
    • Muscle pain;
    • Multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness;
    • Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity; and
    • Waking unrefreshed.

Other Symptoms. Within these parameters, the CDC case definition, CCC, and ICC describe a wide range of other symptoms a person with CFS may exhibit:

    • Muscle weakness;
    • Disturbed sleep patterns (for example, insomnia, prolonged sleeping, frequent awakenings, or vivid dreams or nightmares);
    • Visual difficulties (for example, trouble focusing, impaired depth perception, severe photosensitivity, or eye pain);
    • Orthostatic intolerance (for example, lightheadedness, fainting, dizziness, or increased fatigue with prolonged standing);
    • Respiratory difficulties (for example, labored breathing or sudden breathlessness);
    • Cardiovascular abnormalities (for example, palpitations with or without cardiac arrhythmias);
    • Gastrointestinal discomfort (for example, nausea, bloating, or abdominal pain); and
    • Urinary or bladder problems (for example, urinary frequency, nocturia, dysuria, or pain in the bladder region).

Co-occurring Conditions. People with CFS may have co-occurring conditions, such as fibromyalgia (FM), myofascial pain syndrome, temporomandibular joint syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, migraines, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, or Sjogren’s syndrome. Co-occurring conditions may also include new allergies or sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, noise, vibrations, or touch, or the loss of thermostatic stability (for example, chills, night sweats, or intolerance of extreme temperatures).

 A person can establish that he or she has an MDI of CFS by providing appropriate evidence from an acceptable medical source.  A licensed physician (a medical or osteopathic doctor) is the only acceptable medical source who can provide such evidence. We cannot rely upon the physician’s diagnosis alone. The evidence must document that the physician reviewed the person’s medical history and conducted a physical exam. We will review the physician’s treatment notes to see if they are consistent with the diagnosis of CFS; determine whether the person’s symptoms have improved, worsened, or remained stable; and establish the physician’s assessment of the person’s physical strength and functional abilities.

If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI matter, personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), EEOICPA claim, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation.  We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, through Facebook, or through our website.  Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, ChattanoogaKingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, Greeneville, Harriman, Dayton, Spring City, and Deer Lodge.

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About farmerdreiser

Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser provide comprehensive representation to injured victims throughout eastern Tennessee in personal injury, Social Security disability, and workers' compensation cases.
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