Symptom Validity Tests (SVTs)
A Symptom Validity Test (SVT) is a neuropsychological test that helps clinicians and evaluators determine the legitimacy of a patient’s symptoms by establishing to what extent, if at all, a patient is faking or exaggerating symptoms (also known as malingering).
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not encourage the use of SVTs in the disability determination process, as it feels the tests do not yield enough evidentiary value. The SSA sent out a letter to all of its Disability Determination Services (DDS) personnel regarding the use of SVTs. The letter states:
You cannot prove malingering with tests; there is no test that, when passed or failed, conclusively determines the presence of inaccurate patient self-report.
Senator Tom Coburn did not agree with the SSA’s assessment and asked the SSA’s Inspector General (IG) to look into the use value of SVTs. The IG did so, and published the results in a report.
According to the IG’s report, which looked at the medical literature on SVTs, and at other federal agencies and institutions that use them to determine disability eligibility, SVTs do have merit and when administered properly, can indeed provide useful evidence in the disability determination process.
The SSA issued a strong response to the report, standing by its non-use of SVTs. It has also decided to seek impartial expertise outside of the agency regarding the validity of SVTs.