Sunday, May 23, 2010

Social Security Disability and Obesity

Years ago, the Social Security Administration eliminated obesity from the medical listings of impairments. I think this has caused some confusion. Just because obesity is no longer a listed impairment does not mean you cannot be found disabled based on obesity. Obesity is still to be considered in a Social Security disability claim as an individual impairment and the effects it has on other impairments are also to be considered. In fact, many of the listed impairments make special note of the fact that obesity could adversely affect many medical conditions in the listings. So the effects of obesity must be considered when Social Security determines if you meet or equal listed impairment and when determining whether you are disabled at step 4 or 5 of the process. Severe obesity by itself can cause an individual many limitations that would prevent them from working. However, in most Social Security disability cases obesity is just one of the medical conditions being claimed. In this situation, obesity can clearly have a negative impact on many medical conditions such as heart disease, back impairments, sleep apnea, depression and many others. Since obesity was eliminated from the medical listings of impairments many at Social Security appear to disregard its effects on one's ability to work. It is very clear however, that the decision makers of your claim have a duty to consider the impact of obesity on your Social Security disability claim. If you are claiming obesity as one of your impairments it may be a good idea to get a lawyer to make sure that the limitations from this condition are considered when Social Security makes a decision on your case. I also believe, that there is a general bias against obesity as a disabling impairment. It can help your claim if you're being treated for your obesity and following your doctors advice for treatment. However, sometimes a doctors advice might be for you to undergo serious surgery to help treat your obesity. I am often asked if your refusal to get surgery will hurt your claim for Social Security disability for obesity. This is a difficult question to answer because I am sure there are those at Social Security that would look at your refusal to get the surgery as a negative but I have seen many clients with complications from this type of surgery who are worse off after the surgery. Whether or not you decide to get surgery is a matter between you and your doctor and you should base your decision on what you think is best for you. I can tell you that being denied based on refusal to get such a surgery would give you a strong case for a remand or reversal of that decision.