How is obesity defined?

Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A crude population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI). BMI is a person’s weight divided by the square of his or her height. A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese, according to the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, obesity in both children and adults is rampant in the United States. Ohio rates among those states with the highest levels of obesity.

How doe the Social Security Administration deal with obesity?

In 1999, the Social Security Administration deleted obesity as a listing. Even though this impairment was deleted as a specifically listed impairment, the limiting effects of obesity on one’s functioning, is still considered when determining whether the individual’s limitations are disabling. Social Security added language to the listings to address the effects obesity may have on areas such as the musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system listings to ensure that obesity is still considered as a cause or contributor to a claimant’s impairments. Social Security Rule 02-1p provides direction on the topic of obesity and disability. Social Security uses the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) established medical criteria for the diagnosis of obesity. For adults, the NIH guidelines describe a BMI of 25-29.9 as “overweight” and a BMI of 30.0 or above as “obesity.”

BMI Chart
  The NIH guidelines also recognize three levels of obesity:
  1. BMIs of 30.0-34.9
  2. BMIs of 35.0-39.9
  3. BMIs greater than or equal to 40 (Extreme obesity)

Category 3 obesity, BMIs greater than 40, represents the greatest risk for developing obesity-related impairments. Social Security Ruling 02-1p goes on to state “obesity is a risk factor that increases an individual’s chances of developing impairments in most body systems.” Obesity also increases the risk of causing other health issues which may include the following:

  • – Type II diabetes mellitus
  • – Heart disease
  • – Osteoarthritis
  • – Gall bladder disease
  • – Hypertension
  • – Vascular disease
  • – Stroke

Obesity can limit your ability to function in a work environment. It may affect your ability to stand, sit, crawl, climb stairs, manipulate objects, bend, crouch, among other functional limitations. Inability to do those things creates a great deal of difficulty within work environments. All of these factors also take an immense toll mentally. Obesity often leads feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and depression. These factors are considered in determining a claimant’s functionality. If you have questions regarding obesity and the ability to obtain Social Security Benefits as a result of your disability, please contact Kasunic & Weeks Co., LPA.