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Can I receive Social Security disability if I am obese?

While many unfairly characterize obesity as simply a personal problem, obesity can lead to mental and physical health problems that can severely impact your life and ability to function. The difficulty of combating obesity and understanding it as a disease rather than a personal matter has made it hard to establish criteria for obesity as a disability, but does that mean you should be denied disability benefits for being obese? While your Michigan physician may be able to classify you as medically obese, the path to Social Security disability benefits is as complex as understanding the disease itself.

The SSA has introduced modifications to criteria for evaluating obesity as a factor in approval for Social Security disability benefits. These modifications allow for more serious, measured consideration of obesity as a qualifying disability, but also outlines a number of hurdles to considering the disease's impact as meeting criteria for benefits. The majority criteria is determining if your obesity impairs your ability to function, whether through primary effects or secondary effects such as hypertension and heart disease.

One of the important things to note in the policy manual is the recognition of obesity as chronic. Establishment of a disease is a major factor in obtaining your approval for disability benefits. However, appropriate determination requires the evaluation of a qualified physician who can first establish obesity, then determine if your medically diagnosed obesity is either quantifiable as "severe" enough to qualify as an impairment on its own or if it qualifies through medically diagnosed side effects impacting your health. Because there is no official rule for obesity in the policy standards, often it is evaluated for how it "meets" or "equals" criteria under other mental or physical impairment sections.

Please use this blog post for reference only and not as actionable legal counsel.

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