How Obesity Affects Social Security Disability Claims

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Obesity is a prevalent health concern in the United States, affecting millions of individuals and presenting unique challenges. For those grappling with severe obesity, the impact extends beyond physical health, often impacting daily activities and overall quality of life. In the realm of Social Security Disability claims, the consideration of obesity as a disabling condition has garnered increasing attention. Here, we will explore how obesity can affect SSD claims, the criteria used for evaluation, and the importance of understanding the nuances involved in these cases.

How Obesity Affects Social Security Disability Claims

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes obesity as a potentially disabling condition. However, it is essential to note that the presence of obesity alone may not automatically qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA assesses the impact of obesity on an individual’s ability to perform substantial gainful activity and engages in a thorough evaluation process.

The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments, often referred to as the “Blue Book,” which outlines criteria for various impairments that may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. While obesity itself is not listed as a separate impairment, it can exacerbate or contribute to other medical conditions that are listed, such as cardiovascular disorders, respiratory impairments, or musculoskeletal disorders.

The SSA evaluates disability claims based on an individual’s functional limitations. Severe obesity can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities, including walking, standing, lifting, and bending. The extent of these limitations is crucial in determining eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is often used as a standard measurement of obesity. The SSA considers an individual’s BMI along with other relevant medical evidence when assessing disability claims. Medical documentation, including records of weight fluctuations, comorbid conditions, and the impact on daily activities, plays a crucial role in demonstrating the severity of the impairment.

Furthermore, the SSA will evaluate an individual’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to determine the level of work-related activities they can perform despite their impairments. For individuals with obesity, this assessment considers factors such as the ability to stand, walk, sit, and engage in other physical activities. RFC assessments provide comprehensive understanding of how obesity affects an individual’s ability to work.

The SSA will also consider comorbid conditions. Obesity often coexists with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or respiratory disorders. The SSA considers the cumulative impact of obesity and its associated conditions when determining eligibility for SSD benefits. Medical evidence detailing the severity of these comorbid conditions is crucial for a successful claim.

Contact Our Disability Attorneys Today

Obesity can have profound effects on an individual’s health and daily functioning, and for some, it may lead to eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. Understanding how the SSA evaluates obesity-related claims, the importance of medical evidence, and the role of comorbid conditions is crucial for a successful application. For those facing the challenges of severe obesity, talk to the team at Disability Advocates about your options for seeking benefits. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.