Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits in Arkansas Because of Obesity?

According to the Social Security Administration, obesity is a complex, chronic disease characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity is generally the result of a combination of factors such as genetic factors, environment, and behavioral patterns.  According to the National Institutes of Health, the established medical criteria for diagnosing a person as obese depends on a ratio known as the Body Mass Index. BMI is the ratio of an individual’s weight in kilograms to the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2). For adults, both men and women, the Clinical Guidelines describe a BMI of 25-29.9 as “overweight” and a BMI of 30.0 or above as “obesity.”

In the National Institutes of Health publication Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults there are three levels of obesity. Level I includes BMIs of 30.0-34.9. Level II includes BMIs of 35.0-39.9. Level III, termed “extreme” obesity and representing the greatest risk for developing obesity-related impairments, includes BMIs greater than or equal to 40.

However, whether or not you can receive social security Disability benefits for obesity depends on a variety of factors. After the SSA removed obesity from its Listing of Impairments in 1999, whether or not you can receive benefits depends on factors such as:

  • The severity of your symptoms
  • The effectiveness of treatment options
  • The strength of your medical evidence
  • Your age
  • The type of work you have performed

If these factors or a combination of other factors result in you meeting or equaling an Impairment Listing, then you may be entitled to benefits.

Impairments That May Qualify you for SSD Benefits

While obesity may not be in and of itself a listing under the SSA it can contribute to and increase:

  • Heart problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gall bladder disease

The SSA will consider Obesity in the Sequential Evaluation Process in determining whether:

  • The individual has a medically determinable impairment.
  • The individual’s impairment(s) is severe.
  • The individual’s impairment(s) meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment in the listings.
  • The individual’s impairment(s) prevents him or her from doing past relevant work and other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

So, while obesity may no longer have its own listing, the SSA may consider obesity when it is so severe that it impairs a person’s functioning and therefore equals an impairment.

When is Obesity a “Severe” Impairment?

Defining something as severe is not something that is always clear. Classifying any disease or impairment as severe depends on in part on how it affects the individual, therefore there is no clear answer. However, as with any other medical conditions that the SSA consider, they will examine a person’s claim for SSD benefits based on obesity to determine if it is severe when it alone or in combination with another medically determinable physical or mental impairment significantly limits an individual’s physical or mental ability to do basic work functions.

Under the SSA guidelines, there is no specific level of weight or BMI that equates with a “severe” or a “not severe” impairment. Neither do descriptive terms for levels of obesity (e.g., “severe,” “extreme,” or “morbid” obesity) establish whether obesity is or is not a “severe” impairment for disability program purposes. Rather, we will do an individualized assessment of the impact of obesity on an individual’s functioning when deciding whether the impairment is severe.

If You Suffer from Obesity and Want to Apply for Disability Benefits in Arkansas, Call Our Attorneys

For nearly 20 years, Ken Kieklak has provided respected and trusted legal advice to people throughout the state of Arkansas. Whether you are seeking Social Security representation, a personal injury litigator, or help with a wrongful death claim, Arkansas attorney Ken Kieklak is eager to get to know you and understand your situation. For your free and confidential legal consultation call us at (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.