Obesity Claims

At Ankerholz and Smith, we understand that having physical or emotional problems can be very frustrating for our clients. The complicated nature of the Social Security disability determination process can be equally frustrating, especially for those who are not familiar with the system. According to Social Security statistics, disability applicants who do not use a lawyer are much less likely to be successful with their application than those who have legal representation. We represent applicants with many types of impairments that affect their ability to work, including obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control report that thirty percent of adults in America who are twenty years of age and older are obese. The National Institute of Health classifies a person's weight according to Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a ratio of a person's weight to their height. A person is only classified as overweight if their BMI is between 25.0 and 29.9. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or above. Three levels of obesity are listed: Level I is a BMI of 30.0 to 34.9; Level II is a BMI of 35.0-39.9; Level III is a BMI equal to or greater than 40.0.

The Social Security Administration considers obesity a medically determinable impairment, but that is not enough in itself to justify a determination of disabled status. We all know obese people who are still able to work. Because of that, Social Security must consider the effects of a particular person's obesity when making disability decisions. That is important to remember, because the effects of obesity, when combined with other bodily impairments, can be greater than the effects of the different impairments considered separately. For example, obesity can increase a person's chances of developing other health problems like cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal impairments, and sleep apnea. Depression is also a common offshoot of obesity.

A person's long-term weight history is more important than short-term weight gain or loss. A temporary loss of even ten percent of a person's body weight is generally too small to show medical improvement. Because of the significant risks and potential side effects of bariatric surgery for obesity, Social Security will not penalize a person who has failed to follow treatment for obesity when the prescribed treatment is surgery.

Social Security will find that obesity is a "severe impairment" when it significantly limits an individual's ability to do basic work activities, as well as a person's activities of daily living.

Social Security will find that an "impairment listing" is met if obesity, in combination with another impairment, meets the requirements of a listing. It is necessary to obtain medical records to prove an applicant's obesity increased the severity and impairment of a pre-existing disorder or even a new injury. This can also be true for aggravation of mental disorders.

The Social Security disability determination process can be very complicated and confusing. There is also a procedure to determine whether a person's impairment is "medically equivalent" to a listed impairment. As an example, if a person's obesity affects their ability to walk, that impairment may substitute for the impairment listing defined as, "major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause, with the involvement of one major peripheral weight-bearing joint in listing 1.02A." The burden is on each applicant to prove his or her case.

Obesity can also affect a person's residual functional capacity (RFC), or ability to perform simple activities such as standing and walking. RFC assessments must consider an individual's maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis. A regular and continuing basis means 8 hours per day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.

Obesity is a condition that affects many elements of a person's daily life. Social Security disability claims involving obesity should be taken very seriously!

The lawyers at Ankerholz and Smith each have more than 25 years of experience in handling Social Security disability claims, no matter whether the impairment involves obesity, fibromyalgia, lupus, heart disease, back injury, carpal tunnel, depression, bipolar disorder, or other physical or mental conditions. If no Social Security disability benefit recovery is made, there is no charge for our legal representation.