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Testing tests for SSDI determinations

SSDI is an expensive program. And while everyone is concerned about the cost of the program and how to reduce those costs, especially in light of the impending exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund in 2016, there is often an implicit assumption behind the idea that costs can be cut.

The assumption is that there is a great deal of fraud within the system and if we could just tweak this one test or create one more requirement for the disability determination, we could easily fix the funding issues.

SSDI has grown in size as Congress made more conditions eligible. The addition of mental impairments is one reason there are more people on the program today than in 1970. But this eligibility did not make them ill, and removing them from the program is unlikely to improve their condition.

But because people tend to be skeptical of most mental conditions, demand more proof. So it has been proposed that validity testing be used for the psychological tests that provide evidence of an applicant’s mental impairment.

Validity test can be used “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.”

The danger here is to oversell the potential savings. Sure, some applicants may attempt to game the system. The problem with many tests is that they can be designed to obtain the answers desired.

But at the end of the day, the vast majority of those who receive SSDI due to a mental impairment are unlikely to ever return to the workforce simply by removing them from the program. Placing an additional layer of tests that test other tests will not improve the capabilities of these individuals.

Source: news-medical.net, “Broader use of psychological testing may improve process for social security disability determination,” April 13, 2015

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