“Overweight” - BMI 25-29.9
“Obesity” - BMI of 30.0 or above
NIH Clinical Guidelines recognize three levels of obesity:
- Level I - BMI 30.0-34.9
- Level II - BMI 35.0-39.9
- Level III – BMI greater than or equal to 40
In my experience, decision makers are more likely to give significant weight to Levels II and III obesity as a limiting factor in obesity claims. This is especially true for Level III, which is considered “extreme" obesity, and indicates the greatest risk for obesity-related impairments.
Though these levels do not correlate with a specific degree of functional loss, decision makers tend to consider that the higher the Level of obesity, the higher the likelihood of associated functional restrictions.
I often used the factors of Level II, and especially Level III obesity, to justify further reducing the RFC, which sometimes resulted in a medical-vocational allowance. And I also used those levels, especially Level III, to justify equaling a listing. I cannot remember getting a Quality Assurance (QA) return when using that rationale appropriately. Despite what someone else may tell you, consideration of the BMI in obesity cases is important in the Social Security disability evaluation. Therefore, if obesity is a factor in the disability claim, always consider the BMI and its associated level, with its potential impact on function.