Israel to recognize fibromyalgia as a disability

Israel will recognize fibromyalgia, a once largely overlooked disease that involves chronic muscle pain, as a handicap.

People with this disease will be recognized as disabled within a few weeks and will be able to claim up to 40% of a full disability allowance, Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen said on Tuesday.

This move makes Israel one of the first countries in the world to make such far-reaching arrangements for patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, generalized pain and, in some cases, physical exhaustion, cognitive difficulties, and a feeling that sleep does not relieve fatigue. As such, it prevents many people from going through a normal work routine.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Asaf, the Israeli fibromyalgia association, suggests that about 4% of Israelis, or 240,000 people, are affected by fibromyalgia and its sister disease, chronic fatigue syndrome. .

The number of cases has especially increased in Israeli communities near the Gaza border, apparently because the disease can be triggered by trauma.

People with fibromyalgia have often expressed frustration that without physical symptoms showing up in blood tests or scans, healthcare professionals do not take their condition seriously and authorities do not bring them no financial support.

Over the past decade, however, the existence of this condition has gained more acceptance among physicians, and the National Insurance Institute of Israel has just completed the two-year process of recognizing it as a disability. .

“The reason there is still no general recognition of the disease is because many doctors around the world believe it to be a mental handicap,” the institute said in a report. communicated.

“The National Insurance Institute is opposed to this determination, and after a professional examination carried out by the doctors of the institution, the Legal Office and the Pensions Division, it was decided that it fibromyalgia should be added to the list of conditions which determine social security benefits. “

Roni Rothler, director of the Disability Rights Clinic at Bar Ilan University, told The Times of Israel that fibromyalgia patients “have so far fought for recognition by authorities. Thanks to this development, people with fibromyalgia will automatically be recognized for disability benefits, which will allow them to take much better care of themselves, ”she said.

“This breakthrough is also important because it makes it possible to clearly recognize that what they have is real, because people often doubt it because the symptoms are not seen in blood tests and scans. “

Alex Weinreb, public health expert and research director at the Taub Center think tank, said recognizing poorly understood conditions is important in removing stigma. “It’s good to publicize all kinds of medical conditions because when they don’t they are stigmatized, which is not good,” he told The Times of Israel .

Rothler believes this new recognition is important in terms of gender policy, as conditions that primarily affect women are known to often lag in terms of resources compared to conditions that strongly affect men.

“What just happened is an important statement when it comes to gender, as fibromyalgia affects a lot more women than men,” she said.

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