Correspondence with the Chronicle editor
The diagnosis dilemma
I thought Scott M. Riemer's article, "What to Do if You Become
Winter 2001), covered an important topic.
I want to add that there's
a Catch-22 for working people
who come down with CFIDS. By definition, a diagnosis cannot be given until six months after the
onset of symptoms. Some patients go much longer before receiving a definitive diagnosis. This
wait can end up costing you benefits.
It happened to me.
One year after developing symptoms,
I still had no diagnosis. My company told me that without one they owed me no benefits. I
couldn't use sick leave because without a diagnosis I wasn't sick. I eventually went on leave without
pay. I did not receive federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits during this period.
I was never able to return
to full-time work. Since
I still did not have a formal diagnosis, I was told I wasn't covered by the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA). My employers said they did not have to make accommodations for my condition. I
was forced to resign.
Is there any advice for
PWCs going through this problem?
A PWC in Florida
Scott M. Riemer responds:
dilemma is very common, but it's not necessarily fatal to a claim under FMLA, ADA or long-term disability
(LTD). It's vital to have your doctor(s) thoroughly document your symptoms through clinical exame.
This can be used to support your claim until a definitive diagnosis is made.
Many clients come to my office
int his position when applying
for LTD benefits. Most LTD policies require that proof be submitted within a defined time frame
(usually 90 days after the elimination period of 180 days). If a diagnosis is unavailable by that
deadline, I advise my clients to submit medical documentation supporting their symptoms--including a written
opinion from their treating physician(s) stating that they suffer from "debilitating chronic fatigue of
unknown origin." Included with the proof should also be a letter explaining that their doctor(s)
are presently investigating the cause of their symptoms, and that additional proof will be submitted when
LTD policies require that you
be unable to work. What
renders you disabled are your symptoms, not your diagnosis. A missing diagnosis is not fatal to
your claim. Your employer telling you so is just wrong.
Scott M. Riemer is an attorney specializing in long-term disability litigation. He may be reached at 212-297-0700.
Thanks for the article, "Spine, skull surgery may help many with CFIDS" (May/June
1999). After reading it, I met with Dr. John Oro at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
He suggested surgery that has greatly improved my condition.
I was disabled by a whiplash-type
accident nine years ago.
I grew so weak that I could barely stand up alone. My doctors knew I had Chiari malformation,
but said it had nothing to do with my problems. They told me I had fibromyalgia, and said the condition
was so severe that nothing would help.
Dr. Oro said otherwise. He did
surgery that relieved compression
on my brain and spinal cord. Today (May 24) is the one-year anniversary of my operation. I
have some permanent neurological difficulties, but I am still much better. Before the surgery my
life was misery and agony.
Neva Blakey, Springfield,
The CFIDS Chronicle
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Please address correspondence to: The CFIDS Association of America, P. O. Box 220398, Charlotte,
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