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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Obesity Not in SSA’s Medical Listing Categories despite AMA’s Recognition

For decades, obesity has been considered a major health issue in the United States. In fact, the country has the second highest rate of obesity among large countries across the globe.

Each year, approximately 100,000 to 400,000 deaths in the U.S. have been linked to obesity. It has also increased health care use and expenditures, incurring an estimated society cost of $117 billion in both direct and indirect costs, exceeding healthcare cost linked to smoking and problem drinking. Over all, obesity accounts for 6 to 12 percent of national health care expenditures in the country.

AMA Ruled Obesity as a Medical Disease

In a recent press release, the American Medical Association (AMA) has considered obesity as a medical disease. Although the agency’s latest ruling has no lawfully binding effect, its stance leaves a hanging question whether obesity is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or whether it could strengthen ADA disability claims by employees and applicants for employment.

Apparently, following the new policy, since obesity is now recognized as a serious chronic disease, it now opens the door to further medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.

No Obesity in SSA’s Medical Listing Categories

So far, obesity is not yet listed as impairment under any of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) medical listing categories.

Nevertheless, the agency is still required to recognize the impact of obesity on one’s disabilities. In fact, many of the agency’s listings actually cited paragraphs that explain how obesity may affect the assessment of certain other listings.

Although it is not listed under SSA’s categories, Obesity on the contrary plays a significant role in determining disability in SSD and SSI claims. Adjudicators are required to consider the effects of obesity has not limited on certain process which includes its effect on the individuals residual functional capacity.

Under the Social Security Ruling 02-01p, obesity can be a severe impairment and therefore a disability even if it is the only impairment of an individual. Obesity is considered a severe impairment when it significantly limits an individual’s physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities. Meanwhile, if the condition is a slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormality that has no maximal effect on the individual’s ability to perform basic work activities, Obesity will be ruled as “not severe”.

The ruling has further cited that individuals with obesity may have problems with the ability to sustain a function over time and that in cases involving obesity, fatigue may affect the individual’s physical and mental ability to sustain work activity.

Meanwhile, following AMA’s recent ruling, several Los Angeles social security claim lawyers speculate that the same will possibly expand the reach of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) further since the SSA is already taking obesity into account in determining a claim.