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Not Considering Obesity and Social Security Disability Benefits

Lawyer for Social Security Disability Benefits in Illinois

Did The Judge Fail To Consider Your Obesity?

As of July 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) changed their rules to force claimants denied by an Administrative law Judge to choose between appealing to the Appeals Council or filing a new application for disability benefits. The choice whether to complete a new application or appeal the judge’s decision depends on a number of factors including: the claimant’s financial situation, age, changes in medical condition, and probably the most important factor the judge’s written decision. Before you make such an important decision it is probably best to talk to a Social Security disability lawyer that handles Appeals Council claims.

There are specific types of claims that can be appealed to the Appeals Council. These claims must contain some kind of legal error made by the judge in his or her written decision.

One error that judges make is to fail to consider a claimant’s obesity to be a severe impairment. SSR 02-1p holds that obesity should be considered 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.” Obesity is not considered a severe impairment when there is “only 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.” While a claimant’s body mass index will be a factor that is considered when determining the severity of the obesity, Social Security prefers to do an individualized assessment of the claimant’s functioning limitations.

SSR 02-1p points out that obesity can cause a number of different exertional and postural limitations. Additionally, obesity can cause increased levels of fatigue which diminish one’s ability to sustain work activity over time. If you were denied Social Security disability benefits and the judge failed to mention your obesity as a severe impairment, feel free to contact our law firm for possible assistance with Appeals Council cases.

If a judge finds that your obesity is a severe impairment, he or she must consider whether your obesity alone or combined with another condition meets or equals a listing. Unfortunately, there is no specific mathematical formula for proving that obesity increases the level of severity of another impairment to meet a listing. SSR 02-1p holds that “We will evaluate each case based on the information in the case record.” While the entire record is supposed to be viewed and the impact of obesity on the individual, judges routinely forget to fully consider how it may impact a claimant’s particular condition to potentially meet or equal a given listing.

Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC today at 312-999-0999 for a free consultation.

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