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Can I qualify for SSDI based on obesity?

A federal court in Missouri recently ruled that obesity can be considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act for purposes of employment discrimination. That decision was issued in connection with a case involving a man who was terminated because of his obese condition.

The decision is interesting not only because of the man’s situation, but also because it raises the issue of whether obesity should be considered a disability. Certainly, there are obese individuals out there who are highly functioning and would not consider themselves to be disabled. But for many, obesity does limit daily activities and the ability to work effectively, not to mention that it puts one at risk for various medical conditions. In addition, the American Medical Association does now consider obesity to be a disease. 

The Social Security Administration does not consider obesity to be a disability in and of itself, but applicants can qualify for disability benefits in connection with obesity. One way this can happen is when obesity becomes severe enough that it brings about other impairments included in the Social Security Administration’s official listing of qualifying impairments. This can happen, for example, when obesity leads to serious back problems or respiratory issues.

An individual suffering with obesity can also qualify for SSDI on a medical vocational allowance. This happens when the agency deems the applicant disabled because of a combination of their inability to work, their previous work experience, their age and education.

Social Security benefits obviously do not solve the issue of obesity itself, but benefits can allow individuals suffering with this condition to support themselves when they are unable to work themselves. Those in this situation should contact an experienced SSDI attorney to have their case evaluated and to determine the best way to approach their application.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Obesity Can Be A Disability, Court Rules,” Gregory J. Millman, April 28, 2014.Social Security Administration, “Evaluation of Obesity,” Accessed April 30, 2014. 

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