More than half of all adult New Yorkers are overweight or obese. Suffering from this condition diminishes your quality of life, and puts you at increased risk of developing a number of other health issues. But is obesity a disability that would allow you to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it depends.
What Is Obesity?
According to the SSA, “Obesity is a complex disorder characterized by an excessive amount of body fat, and is generally the result of many factors including environment, family history and genetics, metabolism, and behavior. Health care practitioners diagnose obesity based on a person’s medical history, physical examinations, and body mass index (BMI). For adults, BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2). People with obesity weigh more than what is considered the healthy weight for their height. In the medical community, obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or higher.”
Is Obesity A Disability?
The SSA obviously has some very specific and well thought out criteria for defining obesity, so does that mean it is considered a disability? On its own, the answer is no.
In order for someone to qualify for disability benefits, his or her condition must be listed as a disability in the SSA’s “Blue Book.” The Blue Book’s “Listing of Impairments describes, for each major body system, impairments considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity (or in the case of children under age 18 applying for SSI, severe enough to cause marked and severe functional limitations). Most of the listed impairments are permanent or expected to result in death, or the listing includes a specific statement of duration. For all other listings, the evidence must show that the impairment has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”
Obesity is not a listed impairment; however, the functional limitations caused by it, alone or in combination with other impairments, may medically equal a listing.
If obesity alone is the challenge facing a Seelig Law Group client, we gather evidence that shows the impact the condition is having on our client’s quality of life and ability to work.
However, as noted, obesity is rarely a stand-alone issue. According to the SSA: Obesity is often associated with musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and endocrine disorders. Obesity also increases the risk of developing impairments including:
- Type II diabetes mellitus;
- Diseases of the heart and blood vessels (for example, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke);
- Respiratory impairments (for example, sleep apnea, asthma, and obesity hypoventilation syndrome);
- Mental impairments (for example, depression); and
- Cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon, rectum, kidney, endometrium, ovaries, gallbladder, breast, or liver.
When a client is facing several health challenges and obesity is just one of them, our focus is on showing the whole picture.
When Winning Matters Most
Unfortunately, being diagnosed with obesity alone is rarely enough to get you the disability benefits you need. Working with a member of the Seelig Law Group as you prepare to apply for disability benefits because obesity is impacting your quality of life can significantly improve your chances of being approved. We know what sort of specific documentation agency officials want to see in order to deem you disabled. We can help you get your paperwork in order so you have a fighting chance of being approved on your initial application, or upon appeal of an initial denial.