The United States Surgeon General has declared obesity an epidemic. There’s some good reason for alarm: 35 percent of adult women and 31 percent of adult men are considered seriously overweight and 15 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are also overweight. But is obesity enough to qualify you for Social Security disability benefits?
The answer to that question is complicated. It can be, but only under certain conditions. Before you file, this is what you should know.
1. You won’t be held responsible for your obesity-related health conditions and denied benefits because of outdated notions that you are in control of your weight problem. Social Security is progressive enough to realize that obesity is a chronic disease, with complex causes, and that those people who suffer from the problem aren’t simply unmotivated overeaters who don’t “want” to lose weight.
2. You do have to follow your doctor’s orders and make sure that you take steps to control your weight. That doesn’t mean that Social Security expects you to stop your weight problem — realistically, the agency recognizes that the goal is to manage the condition and keep it from getting worse.
3. Obesity is not considered automatically disabling. It used to be, until 1999. All you had to do in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on obesity was meet the definition of “morbidly obese” based on your height, weight, and body fat in order to be approved. Now, SSA looks instead at what the obesity does to your body as a whole. What other conditions does it cause? What other conditions does it aggravate?
4. You need to list all of the conditions that are either caused by or aggravated by your obesity on your application. The SSA will not simply pick up on the other conditions in your medical records and consider them unless you specifically list them as a problem. In other words, if your obesity has led to breathing problems and sleep apnea, you need to list those as additional disabling conditions. If your obesity aggravates your arthritis pain or contributes to your depression, you need to list both arthritis pain and depression as separate disabling conditions when you file.
If you’re having trouble getting approved for disability benefits based on obesity, consider asking a Social Security disability attorney for assistance.
Source: Social Security Administration, “DI 24570.001 Evaluation of Obesity,” accessed Jan. 30, 2017