An adviser to the top European court recently stated that extreme obesity should count as a disability. The opinion is in relation to a 2010 case where a child caretaker was fired at least in part due to his obesity, the plaintiff claims. Although the context places this case in the realm of employment law and discrimination, the opinion certainly is connected to Social Security disability.
“If obesity has reached such a degree that it plainly hinders participation in professional life, then this can be a disability,” the adviser said.
Even though this is happening across the Atlantic and it has no implications on Social Security law in the states (yet), it raises an important point about the conditions people face. Some people may scoff at the idea that someone who is extremely obese could qualify for disability benefits. But, then again, consider what an extremely obese person lives with on a daily basis. They are physically limited and are practically unable from performing certain job duties.
Much like a person who has a serious and permanent illness or medical condition, or like someone who suffers a disfiguring or disabling injury, a person who is extremely obese is physically unable to do certain things that a healthy individual can.
Remember that this is the primary function of the Social Security disability program: to provide financial support to people who are dealing with serious or even fatal conditions that prevent them from working. It will be interesting to see how the adviser’s remarks are received here in the U.S.
Source: Reuters, “Extreme obesity can be disability at work: EU court adviser,” Julia Fioretti, July 17, 2014