Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Obesity & Disability

According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity, which is an excessive amount of body fat, increases your risk of diseases and health problems. The National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) established medical guidelines that classify overweight and obesity in adults according to Body Mass Index (“BMI”). A BMI of 30.0 or above is considered obese. 

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) recognizes that obesity is a condition that can contribute to disability. The SSA used to have a listing for obesity, but it was eliminated in 1999. However, the SSA rules still accept that the combined effects of obesity with other impairments can be greater than the effects of each of the impairments considered separately. 

I represent a pizza deliveryman who became unable to work when he was 51 due primarily to knee problems. The claimant’s orthopedist concluded that the knee problems were severe enough to prevent the claimant from working. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) noted that the claimant’s BMI was 30.4, and determined that he was disabled. 

In arriving at his conclusion, the ALJ noted that an obese person with arthritis may have more pain and limitation than if he was not obese. Additionally, the ALJ stated that obesity may limit a person’s ability to sustain activity on a regular and continuing basis on a 8 hour, 5 day week, basis. In short, while the SSA may not find a claimant disabled due solely to obesity, obesity should strengthen many disability claims that are based upon musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular impairments.

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