OBESITY & DISABILITY SOCIAL SECURITY RULING 19-2P
OBESITY & WINNING DISABILITY BENEFITS
SOCIAL SECURITY RULING 19-2P
Obesity is a disability that can prevent you from working. If you are off work for more than 12 months, then you can apply for disability benefits. Over the years, the SSA’s rules regarding obesity have changed multiple times.
For example, in the past, one could meet a listing for obesity alone under Social Security Listing 9.09. However, in 1999, the SSA eliminated the listing for obesity. Then, in 2019, the SSA issued Social Security Ruling 19-2p.
When the SSA took obesity out of the listing, they thought the change would produce financial savings. They also thought it would create fewer continuing disability reviews. Additionally, they assumed it would create lower allowance rates. And, they were correct.
Because people could no longer win benefits based on obesity alone, it became harder to prove disability. Now, even if you weigh 500 pounds, you must show another medical condition beyond obesity to win benefits.
SSR 19-2p states that “obesity,” when established by objective medical evidence (signs, laboratory findings, or both) from an acceptable medical source. You must also have a medically determinable impairment.
People with obesity have a higher risk for other impairments. SSA acknowledges that the effects of obesity, when combined with other impairments, can be greater than the effects of each of the impairments considered separately.
OBESITY BY ITSELF IS NOT A DISABLING IMPAIRMENT
Because of SSA’s rules, obesity by itself, does not meet SSA’s listing. However, the functional limitations caused by obesity, either alone or in combination with another condition, may medically equal a listing.
Obesity in combination with another impairment may increase the severity or functional limitations of the other impairments. The SSA will evaluate your case based on the information in the medical record.
The ruling states that obesity is a complex condition due to excess body fat. However, obesity is the result of many factors. Not just your diet. These include environment, family history, and genetics.
Likewise, it is also the result of metabolism and behavior. Obesity can also occur from medications. Doctors diagnose obesity based on your medical history. They also diagnose obesity using a physical exam and your body mass index (BMI).
For adults, BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters (kg/m). People with obesity weigh more than what is considered a healthy weight for their height. In the medical community, obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or higher. There is no specific weight or BMI proves your obesity is a severe condition within the Social Security program.
A doctor may measure your waist to diagnose obesity. If your BMI is within the normal range, you may still have obesity if your waist measurement is higher than normal.
People who store fat around their waist, rather than their hips, have a greater risk of complications related to obesity. The risk increases for a waist size greater than 35 inches for women. For men, the risk increases for a waist size greater than 40 inches.
OBESITY ALONG WITH OTHER IMPAIRMENTS CAN BE DISABLING
Social Security’s ruling states that obesity often occurs along with other medical conditions. For example, you may become obese if you have a musculoskeletal issue or a respiratory condition. Likewise, you may struggle with obesity due to a heart problem or an endocrine condition.
Obesity also increases the risk of getting other conditions including:
- Type II diabetes mellitus;
- Diseases of the heart and blood vessels (for example, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke);
- Respiratory impairments (for example, sleep apnea, asthma, COPD, and obesity hypoventilation syndrome);
- Mental impairments (for example, depression and anxiety disorder); and
- Cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon, rectum, kidney, endometrium, ovaries, gallbladder, breast cancer, or liver cancer.
The fact that obesity increases the risk of having another illness does not mean that people with obesity have any of these conditions. It simply means they are at greater risk of having other severe medical conditions.
SSA CONSIDERS ALL OF THE EVIDENCE WHEN DETERMINING DISABILITY FOR OBESITY
When the SSA looks at your obesity, they consider evidence from all sources. The SSA considers all of your symptoms, such as fatigue or pain that could limit your ability to function. They consider any problems you have doing basic work activities that result from obesity and from any other physical or mental conditions.
If your obesity, alone or in combination with another condition, significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, then the SSA will find your condition is severe. The SSA will find your condition is “not severe” if it does not significantly limit your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
No specific weight or BMI denotes obesity as a “severe” or “not severe” physical condition. Similarly, medical terms for levels of obesity, such as “severe,” “extreme,” or “morbid,” do not establish whether obesity is a severe impairment for SSA purposes. The SSA will assess the effect of obesity on your ability to function when they decide whether your obesity is a severe condition.
OBESITY ALONE IS NOT A DISABILITY, BUT IT CAN EQUAL A LISTING
Obesity is no longer a physical condition that has an SSA listing. Therefore, there is no way to meet a listing, because there is none for obesity. However, the limits caused by obesity, alone or in combination with another medical condition, may equal a listing. For example, obesity may increase the severity of another illness. If so, then the combination of your medical conditions equal a listing.
The SSA will consider whether a person may have physical limitations. Those limits will be in your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push and pull. A person may also have limits in the nonexertional functions. These areas are your ability to climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl.
Obesity increases stress on weight bearing joints. It may cause you to have a limited range of motion in your spine, arms and legs. For instance, obesity may also affect your ability to manipulate small objects if there is fatty tissue in your hands and fingers. Additionally, obesity can make it difficult to handle extreme heat or negotiate hazards. Finally, obesity can also cause problems with varicose veins. Learn more about filing an application for benefits due to varicose veins here.
OBESITY AND DIABETES MELLITUS – SOCIAL SECURITY RULING 14-2P
Obesity is one of the main conditions that often occurs with Diabetes. The SSA states that if you have both Diabetes and obesity, then they must be considered together.
In 2014, the SSA published Social Security Ruling 14-2p, which shows how to look at diabetes in children and adults. The Ruling talks about the two types of diabetes; Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 (usually found in children) and Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 (adult onset – which often goes along with obesity or is brought on by genetics).
In order to win benefits due to diabetes, the disease must impact another under body system. For example, if a person has had an amputation due to diabetes, then the SSA will look at the case under listing 1.00, instead of the diabetes listing.
The SSR lists the following body systems that can be affected by diabetes and points the SSA judge to other medical conditions as follows:
- Amputation under the musculoskeletal system (1.00).
- Diabetic retinopathy, under the special senses and speech listing (2.00).
- Hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure, under the cardiovascular system listing (4.00).
- Gastroparesis and ischemic bowel disease, under the digestive system listing (5.00).
- Diabetic nephropathy, under the genitourinary impairments listing (6.00).
- Slow-healing bacterial and fungal infections, under skin disorders (8.00).
- Diabetic neuropathy, under the neurological listing (11.00).
- Cognitive impairments, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, under the mental disorders listing (12.00).
OBESITY AND YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY
The SSA will assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) to show the effect obesity has upon your ability to perform daily activities. Also, they will look at how obesity impacts your ability to work. In cases that involve obesity, fatigue may affect your physical and mental ability to sustain work activity. This may be particularly true in cases that involve obesity and sleep apnea.
Obesity, along with other physical conditions, may be greater than the effects of each of your conditions alone. For example, someone who has obesity and arthritis may have more pain than a person with arthritis alone. The SSA will consider all physical and mental conditions that are work related. This includes whether they are due to obesity or other kinds of illness.
The SSR on obesity began on May 20, 2019. It remains unchanged to the present day. If you struggle with obesity, remember that it is one of your physical conditions. Therefore, if it limits your ability to function, the ALJ must consider whether obesity impacts your ability to work.
HOW TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS IF YOU HAVE OBESITY
If your obesity is severe enough that it interferes with your ability to perform daily living activities and work, then talk to your doctor about documenting your residual functional capacity (RFC). You will need to file for SSD and SSI benefits with the SSA. You can do this online on the Social Security’s website.
Once you file your application, you may have a long wait before you hear anything from the SSA. There are a number of steps in the SSA process that can take up to two years. Before you file, make sure your doctor supports your application and will write about your mental or physical condition and state that you cannot work due to your severe symptoms.
You are responsible for getting your medical records. In addition to medical records, you’ll also need your birth certificate and tax information. Sending some forms or only half of the medical evidence is not a good idea. This forces the SSA to take extra time to collect the information themselves. If they cannot collect your records, then they will deny your benefits.
If there are any new visits to the hospital or progress notes from a doctor visit, then you will also need to send those to the SSA. The more medical evidence you have proving your limits, the better your chance of winning benefits. If you do not have medical evidence, then request a consultative examination. The SSA provides these kind of exams at no cost to you.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WIN SSD & SSI BENEFITS
You do not need to try to win benefits on your own. Cannon Disability Law can help file your application for benefits. Also, we can help you file an appeal after every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health. Our attorneys and staff can:
- Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
- Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
- Inform the SSA that the SSA should automatically pay your benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
- Request reconsideration if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
- Help you confirm your attendance at a Consultative Examination
- Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
- Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
- Represent you at your hearing and question the vocational and medical witnesses.
- Read more about vocational experts here
- Learn more about medical expert testimony here
- Request review of an unfavorable decision with the Appeals Council
- Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court
If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. However, if you have a medical condition that automatically wins SSD benefits, you should not wait to finish your application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you a summary of your application in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. Otherwise, they will not process your application.
CANNON DISABILITY HAS THE EXPERIENCE YOU NEED TO WIN BENEFITS
Cannon Disability Law is one of the best law firms for winning Social Security benefits. We are known as one of the best Social Security Disability firms in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our attorneys are also members of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives.
Information about our legal services in other states can be found on our website. Nevada Disability Information can also be found on this website. We also have many clients in Idaho. Find out more about Colorado disability benefits here. Likewise, if you are from California, California disability information can also be found on our website.
Over the last 30 years, Cannon Disability has won thousands of SSD and SSI claims. Additionally, we have won over $100 million in ongoing and back due SSD benefits. If you have questions about this whether you should apply for benefits, contact us at Cannon Disability Law. Learn more about Utah SSD benefits here.
In order to fight the SSA’s denials, you need a lawyer with experience. For example, Dianna Cannon has been representing people seeking benefits for over thirty years. Likewise, Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers have many years of litigation experience. If you would like to learn more about the lawyers at our law firm, go to our About Us page.
CANNON DISABILITY LAW CAN HELP YOU IN YOUR OBESITY CASE
At Cannon Disability Law, we can help you apply for obesity disability benefits. In our office, we have lawyers and staff who are trained to help you complete your application. Typically, we help you file your application online on Social Security’s website. Also, if you receive a denial, then we can help you appeal it. If you hire us, we will appeal your case for you.
Likewise, if your case is set for a hearing, then we represent you at your hearing. One of the things we do is help you be a good witness at your hearing. We meet with your before the hearing. At the meeting, we talk about how to answer questions. We also let you know what kind of questions the judge will ask. Learn more about what happens at your SSA hearing here.
Finally, we will use our skills to help you through the disability process. Obviously, it is our goal to win your case. But, it also our goal to make filing for SSD and SSI benefits easier.
As a result, we offer a free review of your case. If you call, then there is no obligation to become a client. You can ask us questions. We will answer. Even if we don’t accept your case, we will still try to help you. Likewise, we will answer your questions about your obesity case.