SSA Issues New Regulations for Evaluating Obesity

Recently, social security issued social security ruling 19-2p: for Evaluating Cases Involving Obesity. Social Security will apply the new Ruling to all new applications filed, or to any claims pending, on or after May 20, 2019 .

The new regulation SSR 19-2p finally establishes obesity as a standalone medically determinable impairment that alone can cause disability. Previously obesity could not be considered as a stand alone impairment, but rather could only be considered as an enhancement to another medically determinable impairment such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease.

The regulation outlines that the impairment of obesity must be based on “measured height and weight, measured waist size, and BMI measurements over time. Specifically, a BMI of 30 or higher or “a waist size greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men…” will generally establish an impairment of obesity. However, the Ruling emphasizes that “to have an impairment of obesity…” the person’s weight, measured waist size, or BMI must show “a consistent pattern of obesity.” Meaning there must a be a longstanding history of obesity and it must be documented in claimant’s medical records.

The regulation points out that no particular BMI or weight measurement alone establishes obesity as an impairment, but rather an individualized assessment of the effect of obesity on a person’s functioning is will be used when deciding if obesity is a severe impairment.

A severe impairment as defined by the social security administration is simply an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limit the individual’s physical or mental abilities and, as a result, interfere with the individual’s ability to perform basic work activities such as walking, standing, sitting lifting, pushing, pulling, and reaching etc. Therefore obesity can be a severe impairment if it precludes a claimant from performing some of these basic work activities.

As stated earlier this is an important regulation as it will now allow for a claimant’s obesity to be a stand alone impairment that can be used to support a finding of disability in the absence of any other impairments. It is important to note however that in order for obesity to support a finding of disability it must still prevent the sustaining of gainful employment on a full time regular basis.

With the ever-changing legal landscape it is crucial that you have an experienced, qualified, and hardworking attorney on your side when applying for disability benefits. If you are hurt, injured, or unable to work please contact us at Bailey & Galyen for a free social security disability evaluation.

The Basics of Social Security Disability

When you find yourself disabled and unable to work there are two government programs available to provide for you and your family.

Social Security Disability Insurance or (SSDI)pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are found disabled and “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes long enough to obtain coverage.

Supplemental Security Income or (SSI) pays benefits based on financial need without regard for how much you may have paid into the system. SSI disability pays an average of 536 per month per individual. The maximum is set at 771.00 dollars in 2019, but social security will make deductions based on your living arrangements.
In order to qualify for SSI benefits you must demonstrate a financial need as well as have a finding of disability.

No more than 2K in the bank.

Typically your earned income cannot be higher than 751 dollars per month for a single and 2016.00 for a married couple.

Things like food stamps and sheltered provided by a NPO do not count.

In order to receive compensation from either program, you must prove that you have a physical or mental impairment which has lasted or will last for 12 months. This impairment must be severe enough to prevent you from working.

The determination of disability is based in large part on your medical records and your testimony at a potential hearing. It is important to have an experienced attorney represents you at your hearing in order for the judge to get the full picture of the disabling impairments that prevent you from working through your testimony.

A January 2019 Government study of hearings-level disability awards revealed that “claimants who had representation at their hearings, were awarded benefits at a rate nearly 3 times higher than those who proceeded without representatives.”

An Experienced attorney will ensure that all of your medical records are provided to the judge prior to your hearing. Your Attorney can also request that your doctor fill out forms and questionnaires specific to your individual injuries to maximize your chance at a favorable outcome. Lastly your attorney will be able to cross examiner potential vocational and medical experts during your hearing.