Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Obesity

Obesity is when a person has a high body weight, to the point where it is considered unhealthy. This is determined by calculating a person’s body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on weight and height. To be considered medically obese, your BMI must be 30 or higher. Obesity is linked to a number of other serious health conditions.

Medical Evidence

The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if you are eligible for disability benefits by reviewing your medical history. Currently, the SSA does not recognize obesity as a condition that automatically qualifies a person as disabled. They do recognize that this condition presents a number of unique health concerns and recommends a few options that could potentially help your case.

As obesity is often linked to other health conditions, the SSA recommends providing medical evidence that your obesity is so severe that it is equal to their criteria for another medical condition. For example, if your obesity is so severe that you have trouble walking without the assistance of a walker or motor chair, you may be able to qualify for disability benefits under the criteria of severe joint dysfunction, which is an eligible condition.

Another option is to provide evidence that your obesity, combined with another related medical condition, qualifies you as disabled. In cases such as these, the SSA recognizes that the symptoms of your other medical condition would not be as severe if you were not also obese. For example, heart disease on its own can lead to fatigue and limited mobility. Coupling obesity with your heart disease more severely causes fatigue and limits your ability to move.

Non-Medical Evidence

If you suffer from only obesity, and no additional conditions, you may still be eligible for disability benefits. In this case, you will need to argue that your obesity is so severe that it completely limits your ability to work. It will help your case to have your doctor support this claim.

The SSA will look into your current and past jobs, as well as your age and education level, to see if there are any jobs you can reasonably perform. Older people with less of an educational background will most likely have an easier experience making this type of claim.

An important step towards proving that there is no work you can perform with your obesity is getting a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment from your doctor primarily in charge with treating your obesity and any related illnesses. The SSA will value the opinion of a doctor specializing in obesity treatment more so than other doctors. Your RFC must include test results, medications, studies, treatment history, and any physical scans besides just a statement from your doctor.

Your RFC should also include statements from your doctor that support your claim of being unable to work. This should include any physical conditions you experience from being obese. Obese people often experience difficulty walking, which makes a large number of jobs difficult to do. Fatigue is another common symptom of obesity, which your RFC should emphasize may lead to unscheduled breaks and missed days of work. Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, are commonly associated with obesity and can lead to many interpersonal issues in the workplace.

The SSA will look at the combined information in your RFC to determine if you can be expected to work or if you qualify for disability benefits.

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