Written by attorney Gerald Gregory Lutkenhaus

Can you get Social Security Disabilty for Obesity?

Social Security has a set of Impairment Listings. At one time "obesity" had an impairment listing. Thus, if the applicant was of a certain height and weight, then the applicant received Disability. For example, if you were 5'2" and 300 pounds, then you were well on your way to winning a Disability Case if you had any impairments in addition to your "obesity".

In 1999, Social Security changed the Rules and deleted the Impairment Listing for "obesity". Social Security did say it would consider the effects of "obesity" with regard to other listed impairments such as respiratory impairments, cardiovascular impairments, and muscoloskeletal impairments (back problems). In a recent case I had a young lady who was 400 pounds and had spinal stenosis. Prior to 1999, she probably would have met the Impairment Listing for "obesity". Since the rules have changed, we had to go to a hearing before a judge and demonstrate the severity of her back problem. We won but the primary focus of the decision was on the back problem and not her "obesity." In another case I had the applicant was a man who was over 375 pounds with congestive heart failure. Again, prior to 1999 he would have met the "obesity" listing. Instead, we had the hearing and the judge denied the claim on the grounds he had not done enough to lose weight.

The United States District Court reversed the social security judge and we were granted a new hearing. We won this time with an on the record decision. But again, this case shows the rules have changed and "obesity" no longer is the "slam dunk" winner it once was.

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