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Social Security Disability Benefits and Obesity

Posted on in Social Security Disability

"Can I receive disability benefits for being obese and what BMI do I need to get it?"

Over a decade ago, 1999 to be exact, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") decided to get rid of Listing 9.09: Obesity. The Administration stated that the listing did not do a good job of demonstrating work limitations. My guess is that there was also an abuse in the system, which SSA tried to remedy. Instead of modifying the rule however, they decided to completely delete it.

Despite getting rid of Listing 9.09, obesity must be considered under SSR 02-1p: Policy Interpretation Ruling Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Obesity. Most notably, obesity can determine whether: an individual has a medically determinable impairment, severe impairment, if the individual's impairment meets or equals a listing, or prevents him or her from doing past relevant work and other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

In other words, it is still possible to get disability benefits if you suffer from obesity, even if that is your chief complaint. Most notably, if you suffer from "severe" obesity, the court could find that you meet or equal another listing. The court could also find that a claimant suffering from obesity is unable to work due to his or her functional limitations.

When looking to Body Mass Index ("BMI"), there is no specific number or rule of thumb that will guarantee that a claimant wins his or her case, because claimants' conditions vary greatly. The National Institute of Health has a very easy to use BMI calculator. For disability purposes, there are three classes of obesity. Claimants who have a BMI between 30-34.9 will be considered to suffer from Level 1 Obesity. Level 2 Obesity is for claimants with a BMI between 35-39.9. Finally, Level 3 Obesity is for any claimant with a BMI over 40. For claimants reviewing medical records on their own, it should also be noted that the term "morbidly obese" could be mentioned by a physician. A BMI between 40-50 is commonly referred in the health community as morbidly obese.

As with all other conditions, if you feel that obesity is preventing you from working, it is very important to make sure that you tell your physician and that he or she writes it down in your medical record. When it comes time to apply for disability benefits or argue a case in court, it is extremely important to have a complete record that accurately reflects the claimant's medical condition.

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