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Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, serving clients in the greater Memphis Metro Area, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, love them some southern BBQ. In fact, the founder himself, Mr. Heermans is a BBQ Competition Winner! But unfortunately, the south is also home to a large percent of obese Americans. More people today are asking the question, “can I get SSDI for obesity”?  In 2021, 42 percent of Americans were found to be obese. Excess weight, in and of itself, is a disability. These individuals cannot participate in some everyday activities that other people take for granted. Furthermore, excess fat significantly increases the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer and all of these conditions are considered to be among the leading causes of preventable, premature death. 

In addition to these clearly identifiable problems, there are some less identifiable ones, most notably the obesity prejudice. Even though, throughout the great culinary city of New Orleans aka N’awlins, a few extra pounds is simply passed off as “credibility”…as in….that person either knows where to find good food to eat or knows how to cook it themselves. 

We all know that it is important to be polite and respect others, but one doctor observed that obesity is “the last socially acceptable form of prejudice.” At work a close employment, promotion, or other contest rarely goes to an obese person. The prejudice is hard to overcome. Additionally, many obese people respond to bias and emotional pain by eating more. So, the problem can become a vicious cycle. 

You probably already knew most of these things. The thing you probably don’t know is eligibility for SSDI benefits due to obesity. Like most other Social Security Disability Insurance matters, the answer to this question is complicated, mostly because the SSA has to strike a middle ground somewhere. The system would go broke if it paid benefits to all obese people with emotional issues, and there are clearly some deserving applicants. The SSI lawyers near you at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm evaluate your case on an individual basis, build your claim from the ground up, then never stop fighting for you.

General Rules

One key qualification for SSDI has nothing to do with the applicant’s physical condition. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, most employed or self-employed people earn at least four work credits a year, even if they only work part time. Most people need forty credits, twenty of which were earned in the last ten years, to qualify for SSDI benefits. Some exceptions apply, especially for younger disabled workers.

Many people economically qualify for SSDI benefits. Medical qualifications are a different matter. According to the SSA, people are “disabled” if their disabilities:

  • Prevent them from obtaining and maintaining SGA (substantial gainful activity),
  • Pursuing their previous occupations or transitioning to a new occupation, and
  • Are permanent or expected to last at least a year.

That second requirement derails a lot of disability applications. Even though obese individuals cannot do many kinds of work, there are still many occupations in our technology age that are open to them. 

How does the Social Security Administration decide if an individual is “disabled” or not? We’re glad you asked.

The first involves an income cap. Most disabled individuals cannot be earning more than $1,300 per month. Additionally, a disability “must significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering – for at least 12 months.”

As far as obesity is concerned, so far, so good, right? As mentioned, the obesity prejudice often prevents these individuals from getting “good” or higher wage jobs and can even prevent them from making higher wages by climbing the corporate ladder. Furthermore, excess weight slows you down, and despite what TV commercials selling weight loss products imply, it’s not easy to lose.

Unfortunately, when a Heermans SSI disability lawyer in Memphis gets to the next qualification, a listed Blue Book condition, sometimes everything can stop here.

The Change in Obesity’s Designation

The SSA Blue Book disability conditions change constantly. Bureaucrats regularly add some conditions and delete others. In 1999, the SSA took obesity out of the Blue Book.

No one is sure why the agency took this action. Generally, however, the SSA deletes medical disabilities for financial purposes. If fifty million obese, unemployed/underemployed Americans suddenly filed disability applications, their petitions would overwhelm the system, and probably bankrupt it as well.

The aforementioned obesity prejudice might have had something to do with this move as well. In the late 1990s, most people believed that obese people lacked the willpower to diet, therefore they were responsible for their own conditions. That may be true, but certainly not in most or all cases where additional medical conditions exist.

Regardless of the reason or reasons, the fact is the SSA front door of immediate approval is closed. Fortunately, when the front door closes, a Heermans SSA law firm and its lawyers look for a back door. Fortunately, a few such entrances are still available in this area to help those truly in need.

Supplemental Illnesses

We mentioned some supplemental obesity illnesses above. These and other conditions are listed in the SSA Blue Book. Even if they were self-inflicted because of the applicant’s weight, and that’s a big “if,” the underlying cause usually doesn’t matter for SSDI purposes. 

If Michelle was disabled in a car crash, she’s probably eligible for SSDI benefits, even if she was partially or mostly at fault for the wreck. Likewise, if Michelle has heart disease, and this condition is disabling, she’s probably eligible for SSDI benefits, even if her obesity contributed to her heart disease.

Michelle’s claim is stronger if genetics, or something aside from her weight, also contributed to her heart disease, mostly because of the obesity prejudice.

Other common obesity-related disabling conditions were mentioned above. Also as mentioned, these conditions are normally life-threatening and therefore disabling, according to the SSA.

Sometimes, the obesity-illness connection is reversed. The obesity prejudice says this condition is always the individual’s fault. However, a number of medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, brain injuries, and other mental illnesses could also cause behaviors that lead to obesity. Thyroid and other endocrine disorders can cause significant weight gain as well.

These conditions are all SSA Blue Book conditions. So, in these cases, obesity is a symptom as opposed to the underlying condition. It’s just a symptom which, in many cases, is worse than the disease itself.

Reduced Functional Capacity

Reduced Functional Capacity can be a difficult qualifying condition to present as a reason to be granted Social Security Disability. We all experience the decrease of function in one way or another, whether it be due to simply aging or having to over perform in other areas of our life. That’s why this back door can be harder to prove. However, SSDI monthly benefits are usually quite significant. So, if this condition is truly causing you significant disability, the struggle is normally worthwhile.

A Heermans lawyer will take extra care to make sure that the applicant’s doctors have access to all necessary and pertinent forms and questionnaires to efficiently complete all of the necessary residual functional capacity reports. These reports are necessary because it gives the doctor the opportunity to indicate how the applicant’s weight severely limits daily activities, like grocery shopping, personal grooming, including bathing and dressing, and the ability to do normal household chores.

Frequently, friends and family members contribute to an RFC report. These lay witnesses cannot comment on the applicant’s medical status. But they can state how that condition affects a person’s everyday life.

To be approved under an RFC, the SSA must find you’re unable to work in any job. This includes not just jobs that require strenuous physical activity, but sedentary jobs as well. In other words, the SSA must see that despite your education, job training, and work experience, your obesity and related health issues are so severe that they prevent you from working at all.

A Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm disability lawyer near you, is a compassionate friend and powerful advocate for you and we do not discriminate against any condition. We are here to make sure that all people experiencing a medical disability have the opportunity to receive a FREE Disability Evaluation.  We also specialize in Veteran SSA disability claims. If you have already applied for and been denied a disability claim, please contact us as quickly as possible and let us know 24/7 via phone and text at (901) 244-0057.  More value added FREE information can be found in our online article library.


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