BOISE, ID – A local Boise disability attorneys office can help you determine that, if you are sufficiently obese, you may have limitations that will qualify you for disability under Social Security’s guidelines. Social Security had a specific listing for obesity, but it was deleted in 1999. Shortly after that, Social Security published SSR 02-1p which explains how Social Security views obesity in determining whether you are disabled. Below are some highlights from this ruling, but you should contact a Social Security attorney (disability lawyer) for how this ruling might apply to the specific facts of your case. A good Social Security disability attorney can evaluate your condition in light of all your limitation and give you a good idea if you should apply for Social Security Disability.
Being obese, in and of itself, will not qualify you for disability. What is important is that that your physical or mental limitations are so severe that you can no longer work, and obesity can cause symptoms that are severe enough to qualify you for Social Security Disability. Obesity is a complex, chronic condition that is broken down into three levels based on your body mass index or “BMI”. Level I includes BMIs of 30 to 34.9, Level II includes BMIs of 35 to 39.9, and Level III, which is any BMI over 40. Level III is termed “extreme” obesity and represents the greatest risk of developing obesity-related impairments. Your level of obesity is important, but not nearly as important as the specific degree of your loss of function.
Whether you are obese or not is not a simple matter of calculating your BMI. You must be examined by a physician who determines that you are obese in an official diagnosis. For your obesity to make a significant difference in finding you disabled, it has to be a long-term condition. As a general rule, your weight fluctuations will not be considered if they are not greater than 10% of your body weight for any substantial length of time.
Obesity can be considered a severe impairment if your obesity, alone or in combination with your other impairments, significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. There is no specific level of BMI that equates with a “severe” or “not severe” impairment. A Boise social security disability attorney can help you understand your options.
Because there is no longer a listing for obesity, to meet a listing or equal a listing you must have another impairment that in combination with your obesity meets the requirements of a listing. For example, obesity may increase the severity of problems with your joints so that you can no longer move effectively, or you may no longer be able to breath if you engage in strenuous activity, etc. You may have many impairments, including obesity, but no one of these impairments is severe enough to make you disabled; but when combined, these impairments are equivalent in severity to a listed impairment. For example, because your obesity affects your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, your ability to perform additional work is less than would otherwise be expected. Your obesity diminishes your ability to perform routine movement and important physical activity necessary for many jobs as well as your ability to sustain functions over time on a regular basis.
Losing Weight And Social Security Disability
So what about losing weight? It appears that Social Security understands that losing weight is not as easy for most folks as simply eating less and exercising more and then waiting for the pounds to melt off. But that is the official attitude. When it comes to obesity, much depends on the attitudes of the judge you happen to be assigned.
So what about surgery or other recommended treatments? Failure to follow treatments is reason for a denial of benefits. But SSR 82-59 explains that Social Security will find that you have failed to follow a prescribed treatment only when:
• A treating source (your doctor) has prescribed treatment that is clearly expected to restore the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity, AND, the evidence shows that you don’t have a good reason not to follow the treatment prescribed.
• 20 CFR 404.1502 and 416.902 indicate the treatment must be prescribed and not simply recommended. So your doctor telling you that you need to lose weight and get more exercise is NOT a prescription for treatment.
Social Security’s official policy is that they understand that treatment goals for obesity are generally modest, and treatment is often ineffective, so they will not find failure to follow prescribed treatment unless there is clear evidence that treatment would be successful. This means that treatment would be expected to remove your impairments. Of course, this is just the stated policy and it will be a random judge who is making the decision in your case, and he or she may think differently.
Keep in mind that just because your doctor prescribes a treatment, doesn’t mean that if you don’t follow it your can’t get on disability. There are legitimate reasons for not following prescribed treatment—these include:
• The specific medical treatment is contrary to your religion.
• You can’t afford the treatment (you had better be able to show that the costs are ridiculously out of your ability to pay). Most insurance plans will not pay for weight loss procedures.
• The treatment carries a high degree of risk.
The best thing you can do if you think you might be disabled because of your obesity is to call a disability attorney in Boise, Idaho. Make sure this is a Boise Social Security disability attorney who’s principal practice is Social Security Disability.
Originally posted 2012-12-08 03:47:51.