Thursday, February 14, 2008



Fibromyalgia, Judge's Perceptions and the resulting impact on Claimant Credibility

The mere diagnosis of fibromyalgia is sometimes dubious to disability judges. The pain disorder has no concrete cause, nor is there an expected course for fibromyalgia. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that both physicians and disability representatives find this to be a difficult and contentious diagnosis from both a medical and advocacy-litigation standpoint.

In a recent Canadian study, disability judges’ perceptions of one hundred and ninety four fibromyalgia disability hearings were analyzed. The findings of the 2003 study are as follows:

The claimant’s role was key to issues such as fraud, malingering, failure to comply with treatment, and failure to reveal all pertinent information. If a judge perceived that any of these issues were present, there was a higher chance of a denial being issued for a claim.

The study seemed to indicate that disability claimant’s actions or any investigative/surveillance information did not seem to affect the disability decision if these issues were not involved.

Credible information did, however, have a significant effect upon the monetary award and, judges seemed to give more weight to the testimony of experts vs. the testimony of claimants.

Although the Canadian study was based on judges’ perceptions in trial-by-judge cases within the Canadian judicial system, administrative law judges in the United States are dealing with the same issues with regard to disability claims based upon fibromyalgia. Administrative law judges consider credibility to be one of the main issues of a fibromyalgia disability claim, and administrative law judges often give far more weight to the testimony of experts than the testimony of claimants.




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Fibromyalgia, Judge's Perceptions and the resulting impact on Claimant Credibility
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