A. Definition
Obesity is a complex medical condition defined by an excessive amount of body fat accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative impact on your health and/or life expectancy. In 2013, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease. In Western countries, people are considered obese when their body mass index (BMI) exceeds 30. BMIs greater than or equal to 40 represent “extreme obesity.” BMI can be calculated in three simple steps:

  1. Multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
  2. Square your height in inches.
  3. Divide the figure in step 1 by the figure in step 2.

Your BMI level describes the extent of your obesity but does not correlate with any specific degree of functional loss.

B. General information
Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It increases your risk of disease and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight.

Obesity is caused by the combination of excessive food energy intake and insufficient physical activity. There can be a genetic component, and a few cases are caused by endocrine disorders, medications, or psychiatric illness. Evidence to support the view that some obese people eat very little yet gain weight due to a slow metabolism is limited.

Obesity rates among both adults and children are increasing, and authorities view this as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. It is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, and severe cases can be the cause of disability, or the inability to work a normal work day or work week for 12 months or longer.

C. SSR 02-1p – Evaluation of obesity as a disability
On Aug. 24, 1999, Social Security Medical Listing 9.09 – Obesity was eliminated from the Listing of Impairments. Therefore, obesity alone is not considered a disability by the Social Security Administration. However, changes were made to other listings to ensure that obesity was still addressed. The new provisions remind adjudicators that the effect of obesity when combined with other impairments can be greater than the effect of an impairment when considered separately. Obesity can “equal” another listing.

To be found disabled by the Social Security Administration due to obesity, the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation <LINK> would be applied. Obesity must be considered a “severe” impairment. It must co-exist with another impairment that meets the requirement of a listing. Obesity, by itself could be found medically equivalent to another listed impairment, or in the case of a child applying under Title XVI, could also be found functionally equivalent to a listing. “Residual Function Capacity” also will be assessed when evaluating your obesity as a disability.

Each case is evaluated individually based on the information in the case record. Your case is as unique as you are. Your representative can help you determine your likelihood of being found disabled by the Social Security Administration due to your obesity and its residual effect on your overall functioning.