Many veterans who return home from active duty develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and need financial assistance from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Some people are eligible for PTSD disability benefits. On the other hand, some individuals fake symptoms—known as malingering. If the VA suspects this fraud, they'll likely be denied benefits.

What Is Malingering?

Malingering and denied VA benefitsMalingering is defined as any patient who intentionally falsifies or grossly exaggerates his symptoms to enjoy outside incentives. These incentives could include avoiding work, obtaining some type of financial compensation, avoiding military duty, obtaining medication, drugs, or other illegal products, and/or evading prosecution for a criminal act.

For individuals seeking VA disability, malingering means the VA believes they're exaggerating or lying about symptoms in order to get benefits or increase existing compensation.

For people who advocate for veterans, malingering is a common issue that must be addressed when a client needs financial support from the VA. While not all charges of malingering are inaccurate, many times they are.

How Doctors Detect Malingering

It's important to understand that even though your doctor is busy and may not know you personally, it's possible he can detect if you're faking symptoms of PTSD. Healthcare professionals use a variety of different questions, approaches, and tests to determine malingering, including:

  • Considering how the patient acts when he believes no one is looking. For example, if a doctor sees the patient in the lobby or waiting area laughing or talking enthusiastically on his cell phone, and then the patient appears somber, sad, and depressed when he discusses his symptoms, the doctor may have reason to doubt the patient.
  • Assessing whether exam results fit with the patient's complaints. The doctor needs to determine the validity of proof.
  • Being aware when the patient claims he has every possible symptom. This includes even the more rare occurrences or extreme symptoms, and may be a sign the veteran is malingering.
  • Evaluating whether the patient's demeanor matches the medical condition. If the patient complains of severe depression and the symptoms that accompany it but tells jokes or is jovial and upbeat with the staff, he might be faking his illness.
  • Being suspicious if a patient is reluctant to undergo medical testing. If a patient refuses to cooperate by completing required testing or shows evidence of antisocial personality disorder, it might be a sign he's malingering.
  • Being aware that malingerers often tell long stories. Patients who fake their illnesses often provide extensive stories about their condition, using many vague details.

Most doctors understand that it's not easy to feign false symptoms for a long time. Eventually, patients who are malingering will make an error. Thus, doctors will document the patient's symptoms, discussions, and complaints that provide a paper trail for others who might use the medical report for decisions such as determining VA disability benefits.

Additionally, doctors may use Symptom Validity Tests to detect possible malingering. These include asking ridiculous, foolish questions about farfetched symptoms such as "Your headaches are so strong, they make your toes ache." Many patients who are faking their symptoms will tend to confirm these types of statements. Doctors may also use Performance Validity Tests to detect malingering. These tests consist of "simple memory or perception tasks that are combined with a two-alternative, forced-choice procedure." Although both test types have limitations, they can be helpful when used with other instruments of evaluation.

Cuddigan Law and Your PTSD Claim

The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans made to protect this country. They understand that combat isn't easy, and veterans can suffer from physical injuries as well as psychological traumas, including PTSD.

If you're a veteran suffering from PTSD and were denied benefits because the VA believes you're malingering, but it's not true, call us. We can review your medical records and discuss the best way to obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we'll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you'll speak to an intake specialist for free.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska