By Peter Casciano, Esq.
Performance validity testing is a critical element of neuropsychological testing. It is designed to ensure that the subject of the testing gives their best effort in responding to the rigorous cognitive testing. The scores of all the tests are then tabulated and interpreted by a neuropsychologist in order to reach conclusions regarding the level of cognitive deficits present in certain areas.
Typically, cognitive testing will measure the subject’s functioning in several areas, including executive functioning, memory, reasoning, verbal skills, intellectual functioning, visuospatial processing, attention/concentration, and speed of processing. In every disability benefits system in which I practice, the level of effort given by my client during neuropsychological testing has been questioned. Whether before the Social Security Administration, a private insurance company, the Office of Personnel Management, or the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, every disability benefits decision maker wants to know if the subject of the neuropsychological testing gave their best effort during the test. The implication is that the subject may have “fooled” the test by not trying and therefore obtaining results showing more serious cognitive deficits.
How Does Validity Testing Work?
One way to combat this suspicion is for the neuropsychologist to “embed” certain questions and tests into the battery of tests that will show if the test taker is trying their best. Statisticians and neuropsychologists are better able to explain the science behind this validity testing; however, these validity tests generally fall into several different models. Embedded validity testing is designed to provide questions that a statistically significant number of folks will perform very well on. These tests will also provide results relevant to a subject’s cognitive performance. There is generally a “cut-off” germane to these tests where if a subject performs below said cut-off, the results of the testing can be called into question. The difference between these tests and stand-alone validity testing is that stand-alone validity testing is not administered for any other reason than to measure effort. Stand-alone testing gives the neuropsychologist no additional insight into the subject’s cognitive functioning, just effort.
The bottom line is that neuropsychological testing is usually under careful scrutiny in disability cases based on cognitive impairment. Whether or not the neuropsychologist utilized performance validity testing when the testing was administered can mean the difference between success or failure. In closer cases, the type of validity testing, the variance of validity testing, and the frequency of validity testing will sometimes be examined and questioned.
When obtaining neuropsychological testing, it’s imperative that you and your attorney understand the importance of validity testing, whether it was used, how it was used and how it will impact your case. It’s also critical when taking these tests that the subject gives their best effort under all circumstances. The battery of tests can be frustrating, tiring, confusing, time intensive and difficult. The subject must fight through all these obstacles and consistently give their best effort so that the neuropsychologist can obtain an accurate and reliable picture of their cognitive functioning.
If you have questions about neuropsychological testing or validity scores, please contact me for a free consultation.
You may also be interested in: