Qualifying for Disability Benefits (SSDI) with Obesity in Pennsylvania

Last week, our disability benefits attorneys launched the debut entry in a blog series about health conditions which can be considered for disability by the SSA (Social Security Administration).  In our first entry, we examined cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and irregular heartbeat.  In this post, we’ll take a look at how the SSA evaluates obesity to answer the question: does obesity qualify me for disability benefits?


Obesity Statistics in the United States

Today, obesity is one of the most widespread health issues in the United States.  The American Heart Association reports that as of 2013, about 155 million Americans aged 20 and older are classified as obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 35% of all adult Americans live with obesity.  (By comparison, about 8% of Americans have diabetes.)

As of 2012, the CDC reports that 29.1% of adults suffer from obesity in Pennsylvania.

Obesity is determined by BMI (Body Mass Index), which measures the relationship between your height and weight.  According to the CDC, a BMI of 30 or higher is classified as obese.

How the SSA Evaluates Obesity for Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration maintains a Listing of Impairments which, as the name suggests, lists the impairments which may be considered for disability benefits.  While there is no explicit listing for obesity in and of itself, obesity can lead to numerous health effects which can be considered for disability benefits.

Obesity Impairments That May Qualify for Disability Benefits

Obesity’s Effect on the Musculoskeletal System

The Listing of Impairments breaks down disability categories by body system.  In the listings for the musculoskeletal system, the SSA states the following:

“The combined effects of obesity with musculoskeletal impairments can be greater than the effects of each of the impairments considered separately.  Therefore, when determining whether an individual with obesity has a listing-level impairment… adjudicators must consider any additional and cumulative effects of obesity.”

Physiotherapist in his practice, he explains a female patient th

Potential effects of obesity on the musculoskeletal system include:

  • Hip/Knee Replacements
  • Joint Problems
  • Reduced Flexibility/Mobility
  • Spinal Problems

Obesity’s Effect on the Cardiovascular System

The SSA will also consider the effects of obesity on the cardiovascular system:

“Obesity may affect the cardiovascular system because of the increased workload the additional body mass places on the heart.  Obesity may make it harder for the chest and lungs to expand.  […]  We must consider any additional and cumulative effects of obesity when we determine whether you have a severe cardiovascular impairment…”

Potential effects of obesity on the cardiovascular (circulatory) system include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Obesity’s Effect on the Respiratory System

The SSA recognizes that the respiratory system may also be impacted by obesity, and will consider its health impacts accordingly:

“Obesity is a medically determinable impairment that is often associated with disturbance of the respiratory system, and disturbance of this system can be a major cause of disability in individuals with obesity…  [Therefore] adjudicators must consider any additional and cumulative effects of obesity.”

Potential effects of obesity on the respiratory system include:

  • Asthma
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Obesity Hypoventilation
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Sleep Apnea

You can calculate your BMI here.

You can read more about how the SSA evaluates obesity here.

Pennsylvania Social Security Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you would like to schedule a confidential, no-cost legal consultation with an experienced disability attorney, call Young, Marr & Associates today at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.  You can also contact us online.

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