Obesity as a Disability for Social Security

It is not well known, but “obesity” can be a disability and form the legal basis for entitlement to Social Security Disability benefits. Claimants may not recognize themselves as “obese” and not realize that it is a medical condition. Several years ago, the formal Listing 9.09 for obesity was deleted from the law. Since that time, assessments of obesity are “hit and miss” and lead to inconsistent findings by Social Security Disability adjudicators and Administrative Law Judges.

There are several ideas brewing to reform and standardize the obesity standard, which include the following:

1. A new medical listing should focus on the Body Mass Index (BMI) and particularly target individuals with a BMI greater than 48.

2. The adoption of stricter guidance as to when obesity must be evaluated as a severe impairment and must be specifically addressed by a Social Security Judge.

3. Use of other measures if BMI does not capture the composition of a claimant’s weight. The BMI is not considered a perfect measurement and is more problematic with females.

Randy Zeldin, Esq. is a Social Security Disability Attorney representing Claimants in Ft. Lauderdale; Boca Raton; West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida.

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