Obesity and Social Security Disability Claims

Obesity and Social Security Disability Claims

Hi there, this is Jonathan Ginsberg, Social
Security and disability attorney, and I’d like to talk to you today
about obesity. You may have read that the American Medical Association
has determined that morbid obesity, which is defined as being a hundred
pounds overweight, or a body mass index of 40, or a body mass index of
35 with other health conditions, that it is not considered a disease by the
American Medical Association. I think that’s probably an appropriate thing,
because I think that my experience has been if somebody has extreme
obesity, they’re extremely overweight, that can really negatively affect
their health in a lot of ways. It can lead to diabetes, it can cause
orthopedic problems, neurological problems, circulatory problems,
a lot of different things. So the question’s been asked, what does that
mean for Social Security purposes. And the reason I say it that way
is because a few years ago Social Security used to recognize obesity
as a listing level condition, meaning that if you’re obese, your weight
was over a certain point based on your height, you were automatically determined
to be disabled. It was listing level. Well a few years ago they changed
that and eliminated that as a listing. So now obesity is not a listing.
It is still used as a factor. And again, if I go to court with a
client who is for whatever reason morbidly obese, and this person has
other issues, heart issues, diabetes and so forth, it can be considered
a factor, but it is not a listing level case on its own. And I don’t
think at this point that the AMA’s decision to classify morbid obesity
as a disease will change Social Securities position, at least in the near
term. We may see a push to make morbid obesity a listing level condition again,
but right now it is not. So what does that mean? I think what it means
is that if you are significantly obese and you have other medical
issues that can certainly help the argument in your disability case,
that your capacity to work has been so reduced by your combination of medical
problems that you would not be reliable. I think that what you’re going
to find though is the judges are going to ask you what steps are you taking
to help yourself. Are you on a diet, are you on some sort of caloric restriction.
Have you asked your doctor about it. Have you given up fried foods.
If you’re smoking have you stopped smoking. Are you exercising. Are you
trying to exercise. Judges these days are really looking to find evidence
that you are making an effort to improve your situation. They’re
under a lot of pressure to reduce the number of cases approved because the Social
Security disability trust fund is running out of money. So in preparation
for your hearing, if obesity is a factor you want to be prepared
to explain to the judge what you are doing differently to try to improve
your health. Again, whether it’s exercising, changing your diet, doing
other things to lose weight, taking medications. But if you go in there and you basically say,
“I haven’t changed anything. I still eat a lot of fatty fried foods, I
smoke.” Judges are not going to say in their decision, “We’re not approving
this guy because he’s doing all these things,” but they’ll find other reasons.
You know, one of the things in hearing decisions, judges have the option
to say, I didn’t find the claimant credible in his testimony. So if
the judge doesn’t like you, doesn’t feel you’re making an effort to improve
your situation it’s very possible he could simply use that, I didn’t
find him credible, and deny the claim even though there is evidence to suggest
that you do have a disability. And it’s tough out there, so give
yourself every shot that you possibly can by adhering to what your doctor
says. If you’re overweight you definitely want to try to lose some weight.
So I hope this has been helpful. My name is Jonathan Ginsberg, I’m
a Social Security and disability attorney in Atlanta Georgia. And if you have
any questions please let me know. Thanks a lot.

4 thoughts on “Obesity and Social Security Disability Claims

  1. You may have to redo this video. Check it out. At the 23 second mark I think you accidentally said that the AMA did NOT consider obesity a disease, which I believe is the opposite of what you really wanted to say.

  2. If you have Parkinson’s and have arthritis in your back and have dissolving disc can you get Social Security

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