What is malingering and how might it affect your claim?

What is malingering and how might it affect your claim?

July 07, 2020


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common conditions among veterans. Those who suffer from these or related conditions might apply for VA disability benefits. Sometimes, however, these claims are denied. If this has happened to you, it is important to understand what malingering is and what it means for your disability claim.

The DSM-5 defines malingering as “intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives such as avoiding military duty, avoiding work, obtaining financial compensation, evading criminal prosecution or obtaining drugs.”

Malingering is not a medical condition, nor is it a symptom of a medical condition. Rather, it is a behavior that doctors are trained to recognize. It may be noted in your medical records if a physician suspects that you have made up or exaggerated symptoms of PTSD or TBI.

There are three types of malingering. They are:

  • Pure malingering — A patient fakes a disorder or illness that does not exist.
  • Partial malingering — A patient knowingly exaggerates real symptoms of their illness or condition.
  • False imputation — A patient attributes real symptoms to a cause that they know is not actually related. For example, someone could say that their TBI was sustained during their time in the military when it actually occurred after they were discharged.

Doctors sometimes use tests to detect malingering, such as the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS) and the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST). They also may pick up on abnormal behaviors that lead them to suspect malingering. Some patients may overexaggerate their symptoms or talk too much about what they are experiencing in order to draw attention to it. Some behave in a way that they think will support their claim, such as acting unpredictably, but instead make the doctor suspicious.

One reason for malingering is to hack the VA’s disability rating system. Moderate PTSD automatically qualifies a veteran for 50 percent disability, while a TBI automatically qualifies for 30 or 40 percent. To get the higher rating, a veteran might misrepresent or embellish their TBI symptoms to be diagnosed with PTSD.

If you suffer from service-related PTSD or a TBI yet your VA disability claim has been denied because a doctor or the VA think that you are malingering, you could still potentially get the benefits you deserve. The attorneys of Legal Help for Veterans can help you find the best way to handle an appeal. Call our Northville, Michigan office at (800) 693-4800.