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

This booklet has been revised in 2021. However, some detailed information such as the income and asset eligibility for SSI change periodically. The revised booklet contains the new 2014 Social Security CFS Ruling which is now used for evaluating ME/CFS disability cases. The booklet also contains information on the 2012 Social Security Fibromyalgia Ruling. Note: Social Security Administration still uses the term "CFS" rather than ME/CFS.

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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

V. Your Description of the Disabling Effects of Your Illness

VI. Contacting your Congressman about your Social Security DisabilityApplication

Appendix I: The 2014 Social Security Ruling for the Evaluation of CFS Disability Claims

Appendix II: Obtaining a CFS Diagnosis Using the 1994 CDC CFS Definition

Appendix III: Documenting Fibromyalgia to Social Security

Appendix IV: 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 ME/CFS Symptoms

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

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

E. Incapacity Checklist

F. Sample Doctor's Letters Documenting CFS Disability

G. Helping Your Doctor Prepare Your Medical Report

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

  • 3 Memos from a disability lawyer.
  • Updated 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 VI: The Use of a Diagnosis of Depression or Other Mental Impairments in a CFS 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 VII: Landmark Federal Court Decision

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

Appendix VIII: Disability Case Reviews

Appendix IX: 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