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.