Obesity and Social Security Disability: A Texas Study

A recent academic study at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas TX focused on the incidence of obesity among disabled Americans. It found that the prevalence of obesity and what the study defined as “extreme obesity” among those with disabilities were significantly higher than among those without disabilities. The findings are as follows:

DisabledGeneral Population
Extremely Obese9.3%3.9%,

Few would be surprised, given the barriers to mobility and exercise options among the disabled, that disabled persons are more overweight. But the extent of obesity among the disabled surprised the author of the study, researcher Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, Ph.D. Dr. Grobe reported that “[W]hile we expected to see higher prevalence than earlier estimates based on self-reports, we were surprised to see how high obesity prevalence was among those with a disability”.

In addition, the study reveals that obese adults with disabilities are more likely to have diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Thus, the study provides convincing evidence of obesity-related health disparities between Americans with and without disabilities.

So what role does obesity have in a Texas social security disability case? Some observations:

  • Some impairments causing disability are more “obesity-related” than others. While obesity probably has a negative impact on health in general, it is the clearly the a major contributor if not cause of problems such as knee pain and dysfunction, coronary artery disease, and hypertension. On the other side obesity seems to have no real link to Multiple Sclerosis, Macular Degeneration or Lupus.
  • Some impairments caused by obesity may not be reversible with weight loss. For example, coronary heart disease or knee damage is permanent and weight loss may still not return functionality

Why do I make these two observations? Because the reality is, the more likely obesity is the direct cause of the disability, and the more likely that disability would go away with weight loss, the less likely an administrative law judge will be to approve the claim.

So is all lost for the obese disabled Texas seeking social security disability with bad knees due to their weight? No, not if one is honestly willing to consider and address the weight issue. In my experience as a social security disability lawyer in North Texas for the past 21 years, I am often impressed how the weight issue for obese persons has in fact not been addressed. Because of the negative associations we have for obesity, doctors, family and friends are often unwilling to help the obese confront the obvious problem. Those with chronic health issues are uniformly depressed, and over eating is a typical way the depressed “self-sooth”.

North and East Texas social security disability claimants with obesity issues can expect that the Denman Law Office will handle your disability claim and obesity issues with respect and kindness to put you in the best position to win your social security disability benefits.


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