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A Social Security Disability Claim Can be Impacted by Obesity

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-01-18 (Revised/Updated 2015-01-15) - SSA removed obesity from its listing of impairments due to the fact that many individuals who are morbidly obese could function adequately at work - West Coast Disability Law Group, LLP (www.westcoastdisability.com).

Main Document

Quote: "...SSA removed obesity from its listing of impairments due to the fact that many individuals who are still morbidly obese could function adequately at work."

SSA used to allow individuals to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits purely on the basis of morbid obesity. Presently, an obese individual may still qualify for disability benefits, as with any other medical condition.

The obesity rate in California is expected to increase from 23.8 percent in 2011 to 46.6 percent in 2030 if current trends continue, according to a new national report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health. In California alone, 800,000 cases of diabetes could be prevented if California residents lost an average of five percent of their body weight.

It will come as no surprise that obesity is a growing concern in the United States, for both children and adults alike.

It is estimated that more than 30 percent of the adult population currently suffers from obesity. While the severity of the limitations surrounding obesity obviously varies from case to case, some of the individuals are simply unable to work because of the condition.

Obesity is defined by the Social Security Administration ("SSA") as a chronic disease that is characterized by excessive buildup of body fat. Someone with a body mass index ("BMI") of 30 and over is considered obese, and an individual with a BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese.

SSA used to allow individuals to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits purely on the basis of morbid obesity. However, SSA removed obesity from its listing of impairments due to the fact that many individuals who are still morbidly obese could function adequately at work.

Presently, an obese individual may still qualify for disability benefits, as with any other medical condition, the SSA will consider whether obesity is a "severe" impairment when, alone or in combination with another medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s), it significantly limits an individual's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.

Pain or fatigue or any other similar symptoms will be considered by the SSA to determine if the claimant has any limits of function.

An impairment due to obesity will be found to be "not severe" only where, in the words of the SSA, "if it is a slight abnormality (or a combination of slight abnormalities) that has no more than a minimal effect on the individual's ability to do basic work activities."

Most often we see morbidly obese individuals being awarded disability benefits due to their severe orthopedic, arthritic, respiratory, and cardiac impairments.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits due to obesity, you will likely be denied at the initial stage of the application process if you do not have a resulting condition that is listed in the SSA's guidelines; two-thirds of all disability applicants will likely have their initial claim denied. An appeal, even if successful, will likely take several more years.

Going through the SSDI application process can be daunting, and statistics simply show that those applicants without representation are more likely to be denied. Being represented by a California attorney experienced in Social Security Disability claims and understanding the nuances of what's needed to comply with the regulations is important in advancing your claim.

Related Information:

  1. Obesity Disease Center (Aug 02, 2010). Will Insurance Companies Pass on the High Cost of Obesity
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/insurance/obese-insurance.php
  2. Disabled World (Jul 10, 2012). What are Bariatric Aids, Products or Equipment
    https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/medical/bariatrics.php
  3. McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC (Aug 19, 2013). In Employment Situations Extra Pounds Can Equal Disability
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/employment/extra.php


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