There’s a famous episode of The Simpsons (many would say the best episode) where Homer automatically gets on disability when he reaches 300 pounds.
In real life, Social Security disability doesn’t work like that, but obesity is still considered in disability applications.
Social Security regulations define obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of more 30. A BMI of more than 40 means that an individual is defined as suffering from morbid obesity.
Thus, someone’s exact weight is irrelevant in determining whether they’re obese, but a high BMI alone doesn’t qualify an individual for disability benefits.
Social Security does not find individuals with BMIs above 30 or 40 to be automatically disabled, as many obese individuals are able to work full-time jobs, particularly jobs that are not very physically demanding.
To receive disability solely for obesity, an individual must demonstrate that his or her obesity is so severe that it significantly impacts their ability to do basic activities. This can be an extremely high threshold.
However, given that obesity is often the cause of many other impairments, such as diabetes, heart diseases, and high blood pressure, and that obesity is sometimes caused by other impairments such as thyroid dysfunction, it is much more common that obesity is considered a non-severe impairment by the Social Security Administration.
This means that if the SSA finds an individual disabled, it will be predominantly due to those other conditions, like heart disease, but the agency will still have to take the individual’s obesity into account in determining what sort of work they’re capable of performing.
This can actually be quite important in a disability application because obesity can affect an individual’s ability to bend, stoop, stand, and crouch.
These are all activities that Social Security considers when making a disability determination.
For more information about seeking disability for obesity or obesity-related impairments, contact a Social Security disability attorney.