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The SSA's Policy on Symptom Validity Tests in Determining Disability Claims-Congressional Response Report, A-08-13-23094

Date: 
09/17/2013
Author: 
SSA Office of Inspector General

In a January 30, 2013, letter to the Inspector General, Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, requested that the OIG review SSA’s policy that disallowed the purchase of SVTs for disability determinations.  SVTs are used to determine whether an individual is exhibiting signs of malingering.


SSA does not allow the purchase of SVTs as part of a consultative examination. The Agency disallowed the purchase of SVTs because of weaknesses in the tests’ psychometric properties and their limited value in determining, with certainty, a claimant’s credibility.  SSA stated that these tests could not prove whether a claimant was credible or malingering because there is no test that, when passed or failed, conclusively determines the presence of inaccurate self-reporting.  OIG concluded that according to medical literature and national neuropsychological organizations, “there is consensus in the medical community that SVTs are useful in identifying malingering in disability evaluations, when used in conjunction with other evidence in the case file.”


SSA disagreed with the OIG recommendations and expressed the intent to seek external expertise to evaluate its SVT policy and the usefulness of SVTs in determining disability, which will also include an Institute of Medicine examination on published research and studies on SVTs.  The Agency stated that it was developing the proposal to award a contract for studying SVTs. 

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