September 18, 2014

Obesity and SSDI

Social Security disability listingsThe American Medical Association recently released a report 1 officially recognizing obesity as a disease.

With one in three Americans falling in the obese or super-obese BMI spectrum, the AMA hopes that by defining morbid obesity 2 as a disease the medical community will implement more aggressive efforts to combat this debilitating condition (and the ancillary diseases associated with it) and prompt insurance companies to pay for treatments, counseling, and medication reimbursements.

What does this mean in the context of Social Security Disability?

Just because obesity has garnered much more attention as a debilitating disease by various members of the medical community, don’t assume SSDI will follow suit.  Currently obesity is not listed in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, or database of diseases that will automatically qualify a claimant to receive disability benefits.

Those deemed obese will not automatically qualify for social security disability benefits; instead, the burden of proof rests on the claimants to demonstrate how obesity and obesity-related symptoms affect their ability to work and carry out day-to-day functions 3.

Often symptoms associated with obesity heighten the severity of other medical conditions that do appear in the Listing of Impairments, and thus may qualify the claimant for SSDI benefits.  For example, if you are obese and suffer from a cardiovascular disease such as coronary heart disease, chances of winning your SSDI case are much greater for you than for a claimant who only suffers from obesity and other non-listed conditions.

Many judges still perceive obesity as a reflection of lifestyle choices.  All obese claimants would benefit by improving dietary habits, incorporating exercise into their daily routines, and leading a less sedentary lifestyle.  By demonstrating to the judge that you are doing everything in your power to decrease the problem, your SSDI judge may be more sympathetic to your case.

If you experience problems with job reliability because of obesity and associated medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and spinal problems, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.  Please use the case inquiry form on this page to request a confidential case evaluation.

  1. The AMA has recently designated obesity as a disease.
  2. The  University of Rochester Medical Center defines morbid obesity as follows:  if a person is 100 pounds over his/her ideal body weight, has a BMI of 40 or more, or 35 or more and experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  3. Social Security defines disability in terms of limitations to your work capacity.  Read more about SSA’s definition of disability here
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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.

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