Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is Morbid Obesity Considered A Disability?

Social Security used to have a specific medical listing that covered morbid obesity, however in recent years this listing has been dropped. Now morbid obesity has to be evaluated in conjunction with other impairments that may be exacerbated by obesity such as asthma, cardiovascular conditions, arthritis or by the increased functional limitations caused by an individual’s obesity.

Initially, Social Security had a chart that addressed specific weights and heights that established morbid obesity; however since the demise of the medical listing it depends upon treating physicians or consultative physicians to establish the fact that an individual has morbid obesity. Basically, Social Security considers morbid obesity to be a severe impairment, either alone or in conjunction with other medical problems that significantly limit an individual's ability to perform significant work activity or activities of daily living (i.e. personal grooming, walking, driving, etc.).

Since the rule change in October, 1999, Social Security has evaluated obesity under other listings. For example, if an individual has morbid obesity and arthritis, the individual will most likely be evaluated under the musculoskeletal listings. Likewise, if an individual has heart or breathing problems, obesity may be evaluated under a cardiovascular or asthma listing. However, if an individual does not meet any of these listings in the social security impairment listing manual, they may still be approved via a medical vocational allowance.

What is a medical vocational allowance? Medical vocational allowances are based upon an individual’s age, educational background, past work, medical and/or mental conditions, and residual functional capacity (what an individual is able to do in spite of their medical and/or mental impairments).

So the simple answer to this question is, yes, morbid obesity is considered to be a disabling medical condition just like any other severe medical or mental condition. And just like other impairments, it is evaluated under the five step sequential Social Security disability evaluation process. Remember, first and foremost, eligibility for Social Security disability benefits depends upon functional ability rather than being diagnosed with a specific medical and/or mental condition.

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