WASHINGTON – Broader use of standardized psychological testing for applicants submitting disability claims to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) should improve the accuracy and consistency of disability determinations, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Some proponents of mandatory psychological testing, in particular validity testing, for SSA disability applicants argue that it would result in a significant reduction of individuals allowed onto the benefits rolls and a substantial cost savings. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report said the data necessary to accurately assess the effects on the rolls or calculate financial costs and benefits are limited, and estimates based on available data are subject to considerable error. However, the report provides a framework for evaluating the financial impact of implementing the committee’s recommendations.
In 2012, SSA provided benefits to nearly 15 million disabled adults and children. Under SSA, state agencies determine disability based on medical and other evidence considered relevant in an applicant’s case record, which may include standardized psychological tests. Cognitive psychological tests are performance-based and have people answer questions and solve problems as well as they possibly can. Non-cognitive psychological tests are measures of typical behavior -- such as personality, interests, values, and attitudes. Validity tests can be used in conjunction with these standardized psychological tests to assess whether a test-taker is exerting sufficient effort to perform well, responding to the best of his or her capability, or providing an accurate report of his or her symptoms. SSA recognizes that some psychological tests are valid and reliable and provide useful data, but it does not require psychological testing in cases involving mental disorders other than intellectual disability. In addition, SSA policy precludes the purchase of validity tests as part of a consultative examination to supplement an applicant’s case record. However, applicants and their representatives sometimes submit validity test results in support of their claims, and there are different opinions in the use and value of validity tests for work disability evaluations. In this context, the SSA asked IOM to carry out its study.
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