San Diego Social Security Disability Attorneys Comment on Obesity and SSDI/SSI Benefits

We recently  had a case involving a young claimant who was five  feet six inches tall and weighed over 350 pounds. She had a BMI over 50. In addition, she had  been diagnosed with scoliosis (a sideways curvature of  the  spine associated with pain but  not  neurological impairment),lumbar spondylosis (stiffening or fixation of the vertebrae) and hypo joint mobility. She had a high school diploma but no work experience. She took daily pain medication but still woke up  several times per night due to the  pain. This caused her  to  be groggy and not  mentally  focused during the  day.

One of the issues in the claim involved what effect her obesity was having on her underlying orthopaedic  conditions. In order to properly  present her claim we had to research to  what extent obesity  is  considered by the Social Security  Administration.  According to the Social Security Administration, obesity is a complex, chronic disease characterized by excessive  accumulation of  body fat caused  by a  combination of factors i.e. genetic, environmental and  behavioral. Obesity is a risk factor that  increases an individual’s chances of developing impairments in  most body  systems.

The National Institutes of Health established medical criteria for  the  diagnosis  of  obesity. These guidelines classify overweight and  obesity in adults  according to Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is the  ratio of  an individual’s weight in kilograms to the  square of his or heightin meters.  For adults, both men and women, the  guidelines describe  a BMI of 25-29.9 as overweight and a  BMI of 30.0 or above as  obesity. The guidelines  further recognize three levels of obesity. Level I includes BMIs of 30.0 – 34.9. Level II includes BMIs of 35.0 – 39.9. Level III, termed extreme obesity includes BMIs greater than 40.

Prior to October 25, 1999, there was an actual SSA listing  for obesity (9.09). The  listing was  deleted because the Social Security  Administration believed that the criteria in the  listing were not  appropriate indicators  of  listing-level severity in that they did  not represent  a degree of  functional limitation that would  prevent  an individual from engaging  in  any  gainful activity.

Although the listing was  deleted, the Social Security  Administration still recognizes obesity as a medically determinable impairment. On September 12, 2002 they  issued a Policy Interpretation Ruling (SSR 02-1p) regarding the  evaluation of  obesity.

In the  ruling SSA reminds adjucators that “obesity  is  a medically  determinable  impairment and that adjucators should consider its effects when evaluating disability”. The  ruling also reminds adjudicators that the combined effectss of obesity  with other impairments can be greater than the  effects of  each of  the  impairments considered  separately. They  also instructed adjudicators to  consider the  effects of obesity when assessing  an individual’s residual functional capacity.

The ruling provides that the Social Security Administration will find that “obesity  is a severe impairment when, alone or in combination with another medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s), it significantly limits an individual’s physical or mental ability to do  basic  work activities.” They  will also consider the  effects of any symptoms  (i.e. pain or fatigue)that could limit  functioning.

In our case we believe that we were able to show that the claimant’s obesity combined with her underlying orthopaedic conditions significantly limited her physical and mental ability to do  basic  work activities.

The San Diego Social Security Disability Attorneys with  the  San Diego Disability  Law Group will help you present the strongest claim possible for Social Security Disability  based  on obesity  and other limiting conditions.

If you or a friend or family member has a Social Security Disability claim or question, contact the Social Security Disability Attorneys at the  San Diego  Disability Law  Group for a free consultation at 619-338-900.



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