Psychological testing sheds light on malingering in workers comp disability evaluations


By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, PhD

Malingering, as it applies to the context of criminal, civil, personal and

workers comp disability evaluations

, is the practice of intentionally producing false or exaggerated symptoms in order to reap the benefits of compensatory measures such as money, prescription drugs, relief from duty or avoidance of criminal prosecution. More often than not, the public becomes aware of malingering due to criminal cases, like that of Russell E. Weston Jr. – an individual diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who is currently undergoing mental health treatment in anticipation of an eventual murder trial, according to

Bloomberg Businessweek

In both this context and others, however, malingering can be incredibly difficult to assess. Studies have shown that certain behaviors can help lead to a clinical determination of malingering in a variety of different contexts. However, even when suspicious activity or evidence is present, it can take psychological testing and evaluation by a qualified psychiatric professional in order to confirm malingering on the part of an injured individual.

According to a study published in the largest national peer reviewed psychiatric journal,

Primary Psychiatry

, there are a number of methods through which examiners can attempt to determine whether or not an individual is guilty of malingering. These include standardized mental status tests, personality tests assessing exaggerated cognitive impairment and psychological limitations, surveillance, medical records and a direct interview with the claimant in question. Over the course of reviewing these tests, testimonies and documents, evaluators may notice certain factors that argue for or against malingering. Probable motivations, causes or evidences for malingering, for example, may include:

Financial incentive

Solution to socioeconomic or financial difficulties

Antisocial behavior

Career dissatisfaction or conflict with co-workers


History of lying, misleading or other related behavior

Dramatic, exaggerated or incongruent symptoms

Working or engaging in active recreation during the claim period

Noncompliance with treatment

On the other hand, when an individual undergoes aggressive or risky treatment, exhibits obvious losses or engages in self-defeating behavior symptomatic of a genuine psychiatric trauma or disorder, there is a strong chance that the disability claim is legitimate. Experts agree, however, that the key to successful evaluation of such claims is the comprehensive analysis of data from a variety of sources and by multiple examiners; and when it comes to workers compensation cases, it is important to involve a

Qualified Medical Evaluator

in the process in order to ensure accurate administration of all psychological tests and instruments.

To learn more about certified medical evaluations for workers comp disability claims, visit today, or email