Congressional Response Report: SSA’s Policy on Symptom Validity Tests in Determining Disability Claims

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Report Number: 
Report Type: 
Audit Report
Office Affiliation: 

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 we 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. Malingering is a term used to describe individuals who intentionally pretend to have, or grossly exaggerate, physical or psychological symptoms for their own gain.

Senator Coburn also requested that we review medical literature and survey other agencies and private disability insurance providers regarding the usefulness of SVTs in determining disability.

Our objective was to (1) review the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) policy that prohibits the purchase of symptom validity tests (SVT) in disability determinations; (2) determine the medical community’s opinion on the usefulness of SVTs; and (3) determine whether other Federal agencies and private disability insurance providers consider or fund the purchase of SVTs.