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b2ap3_thumbnail_obesity.jpgObesity does not simply mean a person is a few pounds over their ideal weight. Rather, it is defined as a “complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat.” In some cases, a person's obesity may be severe enough to qualify them for Social Security disability benefits.

Now, it is important to understand that obesity, in and of itself, is no longer considered a standalone disability by Social Security. That is to say, Social Security will not assume you are unable to work because you suffer from obesity. But Social Security must take obesity into consideration when determining any limitations on your ability to work.

Magistrate: Social Security Acknowledged, But Did Not Discuss, Impact of Disability Applicant's Obesity

A recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois illustrates the role obesity should play in a disability application. The plaintiff, in this case, applied for disability benefits, stating he has been unable to work since 2009 due to a variety of impairments, including a back injury, arthritis, and diabetes.

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Social Security disability claimsAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 percent of U.S. adults suffer from obesity. While merely being “overweight” does not prevent most people from working, when obesity is combined with an individual's other medical impairments, it may qualify him or her for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Federal Court Orders Third Social Security Hearing for Applicant with “Morbid Obesity”

Getting Social Security to accept evidence of an obesity-related disability is often easier said than done. For example, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago recently ordered Social Security to conduct a third hearing for a disability applicant who first applied for benefits eight years ago. Among other issues, the appeals court cited Social Security's failure to consider how the applicant's “morbid obesity” interacted with her other medically proven impairments.

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