fibromyalgia eligibility for disability benefits

Fibromyalgia cases often are difficult to assess in determining eligibility for benefits.

But the mere diagnosis of a condition (like fibromyalgia) is not enough to qualify for disability benefits under most policy definitions.

The recent case of Decovich v. Venetian Casino Resort, 2017 WL 388819 (D. Nevada January 26, 2017) highlights the point.

FACTS: Decovich, a card dealer with fibromyalgia, sought ERISA-governed disability benefits. The claim was denied because Plaintiff’s treating physician had not provided any restrictions or limitations, and Decovich had kept working for one year after receiving the fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Unhappy with the cards she had been dealt, Decovich brought suit.

ISSUE: Applying de novo review, whether Plaintiff’s medical diagnosis of fibromyalgia established disability?

HELD: SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR DEFENDANT

  1. Applying de novo review, even though peer reviewers agreed with the fibromyalgia diagnosis, “the diagnosis is not the automatic equivalent to a finding of disability.” Op. at 7.
  2. “Although plaintiff may suffer from fibromyalgia, there is insufficient evidence on the record to conclude that plaintiff is ‘disabled’ as that term is defined in the underlying policy.” Op. at 7.
  3. It was a problem that the treating physician “diagnosed plaintiff with fibromyalgia [but] did not indicate whether she would be able to return to work or if her condition would be permanent.” Op. at 7.
  4. Even though a peer reviewer indicated that plaintiff may be “impaired,” the meaning of “impaired” is unclear and “does not necessarily mean that plaintiff is unable to perform the ‘Essential Functions of [her] Regular Occupation,” as required by the policy’s definition of ‘disability.’”   Op. at 7-8.