In order to be eligible to receive Michigan Social Security disability benefits, you must have a severe physical or mental impairment. The Social Security Administration recognizes obesity as a medically determinable impairment (but not a Listing impairment). Thus, the success or failure of your obesity case will depend on whether your obesity, by itself or in conjunction with other impairments, is so severe as to prevent you from working.
To make this disability determination, the Social Security Administration will evaluate your “residual functional capacity” (i.e., your ability to function in a work setting despite the limitations of your impairment). Obesity can have a negative impact on residual functional capacity in several ways. For example, your obesity may limit your ability to perform the physical tasks associated with work, e.g., walking, standing, sitting, carrying, lifting. Your obesity may cause fatigue, which interferes with your ability to focus and perform cognitive work-related tasks. In addition, obesity often leads to depression, which may render you psychologically unable to work.
One argument that sometimes is raised in opposition to an award of obesity-related benefits is “failure to follow prescribed treatment.” Rarely does this argument succeed. A “prescribed treatment” is a course of treatment prescribed by a doctor that is expected to restore your health and your ability to work. When your doctor suggests that you eat better, exercise more and lose weight, this advice does not amount to a prescribed course of treatment. In addition, Medicare and many private insurers refuse to pay for surgical intervention or drug therapy for obesity. If your doctor does prescribe this type of treatment, but you cannot afford it, you have a valid reason for failing to follow through. Even so, it is likely the administrative law judge presiding over your hearing will ask you about your efforts to lose weight. You should be prepared to testify on this topic and, if possible, your doctor also should be prepared to comment on how difficult it has been for you to lose weight.
If your claim for Michigan Social Security disability benefits has been denied, and you would like to talk a compassionate and knowledgeable disability lawyer, please contact me.