There is a new scholarly paper discussing Social Security disability and obesity: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Stigma and Denial in Social Security Disability Hearings by Professor Chris Pashler (follow the link to read the abstract and/or download a free PDF copy of the paper).
Professor Pashler argues that the stigma attached to morbid obesity results in patients underreporting their symptoms to their doctors, which leads to an underdeveloped medical record. The stigma may also create a "negative halo for decisionmaking" by administrative law judges at Social Security disability hearings. These issues may skew results in disability claims, Professor Pashler says.
Certainly this is also true with claims involving other stigmatized medical conditions, such as mental illness.
The issue of reporting symptoms to treating medical providers is one that I discuss with my clients. Patients must communicate with their medical providers, their lawyer, and eventually tell the judge about their specific symptoms and to have a reasonable expectation of an award of disability benefits.
Professor Pashler looks at solutions to this problem at the hearing level, and also argues against instituting an adversarial system at ODAR, as some have suggested, because it would not improve current decisionmaking.