New Ruling on Obesity

June 26, 2019

SSA issued SSR 19-2p: “Titles II and XVI: Evaluating Cases Involving Obesity” on May 20, 2019. SSA will apply the new Ruling to all newapplications filed, or to any claims pending, on or after that date. SSR 19-2prescinds and replaces SSR 02-1p: “Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Obesity.”

SSR 19-2p explains that SSA establishes obesity as a medically determinable impairment (MDI) based on “measured height and weight, measured waistsize, 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 40inches for men…” will generally establish an MDI of obesity. However, the Ruling emphasizes that “to have an MDI of obesity…” the person’s weight, measured waist size, or BMI must show “a consistent pattern of obesity.”

To establish obesity as a severe impairment, SSR 19-2p simply reiterates the regulatory requirement that SSA “consider all evidence from all sources” when evaluating the severity of obesity, including all symptoms, “such as fatigue or pain that could limit functioning,” and any functional limitations resulting from obesity and any other impairments. “If the person’s obesity, alone or in combination withanother impairment(s), significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, [SSA will] find that the impairment(s) is severe.” Per the Ruling, no specific weight, BMI, or a medical source’s descriptive terms forlevels of obesity (e.g. severe, extreme, morbid) establish that obesity is a severe impairment. Instead, SSA conducts “an individualized assessment of the effect of obesity on a person’s functioning when deciding whether the impairment is severe.”

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