The American Association for Disability Policy Reform    

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Physical and Psychological Examinations


SUMMARY:

The Social Security Administration uses physical and psychological examinations to try to determine whether or not persons applying for disability benefits are able to work, claiming that these are valuable parts of the disability determination process.   However, the examinations the Administration uses are limited almost entirely to the simple, brief and inexpensive tests that were available in the 1950's.   None was designed to determine whether or not a person could sustain work activities.   Except in extreme cases, these exams are practically worthless.


DETAILS:

In determining whether or not a person is able to work, the challenge is to determine what work activities he or she is able to sustain for 40 hours a week on a regular basis.   (Note that the Social Security Administration has decided that there are no part-time jobs.)   Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence that any of the tests used in any of these examinations can be used to predict a person's ability to sustain an activity for 40 hours a week, as needed in a job.   Also, there is no scientific evidence that any combination of the tests used in any of these examinations can be used to predict a person's ability to sustain an activity for 40 hours a week, as needed in a job.

Consider physical examinations, which often include the following:     (Remember that we are not considering the extreme cases, which are a small portion of disability applicants.   They are the easy cases, for which examinations are rarely needed anyway.)

Physical examinations can show the presence of disease but cannot determine the extent to which physical illness affects the ability to sustain work activity for 40 hours a week.   There is also no known correlation between any combination of the above and a person's ability to sustain any activity for 40 hours a week.

Consider psychological examinations, which often include the following:     (Remember that we are not considering the extreme cases, which are a small portion of disability applicants.   They are the easy cases, for which examinations are rarely needed anyway.)

Conclusion: Except in extreme cases, in which examinations are rarely needed, the examinations the Social Security Administration uses are of little value in determining whether or not a person is able to work.


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Last updated on 3/27/14.