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Obesity Can Be Grounds for Disability Retirement

Obesity Can Be Grounds for Disability Retirement

Obesity or morbid obesity may qualify you for FERS or CSRS disability retirement through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

However, as an experienced OPM disability attorney, I see too many cases in which judges view obesity as the fault of the claimant, rather than facing the fact it’s often caused by a recognized medical condition.

Medical causes of obesity not linked to overeating include:

Hypothyroidism. This is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces too little thyroid hormone which regulates our metabolism. A deficiency of the hormone slows the metabolism and often causes weight gain.

Pituitary Gland Disorder – also known as Hypopituitarism, is a condition in which the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain) fails to produce one or more of its hormones or not enough of them.

Cushing’s Syndrome – This little known condition results when the adrenal glands on the top of each kidney, produce a surplus of a steroid hormone called cortisol. This leads to a build-up of fat in areas such as the face, upper back, and abdomen.

Pituitary tumors – These are abnormal growths that develop in the body’s pituitary gland. Some pituitary tumors cause excessive production of hormones that regulate important functions of your body such as weight.

Stein-Leventhal Syndrome – Also called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), this disorder affects about 5 percent of women. It’s characterized by an elevated level of male hormones and can lead to obesity in about 50 percent of cases.

To qualify for disability retirement due to obesity the OPM states you must “while employed in a position subject to CSRS, have become disabled, because of disease or injury.”

Sadly, I see many Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) decisions on OPM disability retirement cases starting from the incorrect assumption that an obese person has eaten too much or has chosen to be overweight.

Judges will often conclude the obesity was not related to a condition, disease or injury, as specified by the act but an unwillingness to take action to lose weight.

There is case law that suggests bypass surgery, might be too extreme a measure to expect an applicant to undergo.

We help employees with OPM Disability Retirement for FERS/CSRS employees. We will work closely with you and your doctor to collect all of the necessary records and information to help you in preparing your OPM Request or Appeal.