Research suggests 99.4% of Veterans don’t make Fraudulent Disability Claims

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Fraud puzzle concept

Just in. An Army PTSD policy memo buried deep in the nether regions of the internet highlighted supremely low levels of fraudulent disability claims made by veterans with PTSD.

I personally searched for this report for the past two years until today. Many advocates cited the report’s statistics without knowing where to find the research that confirmed what we all know – VETERANS DO NOT LIE – at least not 99.4% of us.

The document is called, Policy Guidance on the Assessment and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it went into effect 10 April 2012 and expired two weeks ago, so it is a pretty fresh find, at least for us out here. The tall and short of it is that the report – from the Army no less – cites evidence that suggests disabled veterans just do not make fraudulent disability claims.

As a quick aside, this document was not searchable when I found it, which is a typical trick of DoD and VA to keep many Google sleuths from finding the data. This means that no matter how hard a person looks, they could only find it by dumb luck. And, I was dumb lucky today. So I found the document and did OCR it for all veterans to hopefully find when looking for insight.

According to research cited in the Army memo, out of 2,100 veterans’ claims, only 13 veterans made potentially fraudulent disability claims. This means VA was willing to spend millions upon millions to detect a tiny splinter of potential fraud and in so doing gum up the entire disability compensation system. In 2011, this fact was cited as the reason for relaxing the PTSD criteria a few years ago despite the cries of others in VA who are still Veteran Haters.

The Haters are those DoD and VA employees convinced veterans lie because of the financial incentive; ferreting out supposed liars is worth the multi-million dollar industry for the Insurance Industry and VA. The industry created malingering detectors like the fabled MMPI-2 and similar to bust people making fraudulent disability claims.

The memo stated the chance of fraud was so low the Army directive to commanders and MEDCOM regional commanders implied for the leaders to not bother with heavily testing for malingering. This makes sense since so few veterans actually made up their conditions.

Here is a little quick history on why this issue matters. Until around 2005, VA believed veterans would lie a lot because of the incentive to do so when seeking disability compensation money. However, when it came time to evaluate this assertion, Veteran Haters struggled to find any direct evidence to support their assertion. Instead, VA OIG and numerous VA researchers, who believe veterans are more honest than common criminals, found the opposite was true.

This leads to the conclusion that veterans are more honest than VA thought. Yet, there are clearly many Veteran Haters in the system harming veterans.

This issue of malingering matters because it means many VA claims were probably denied until recently merely based on the bias of the VA evaluator who assumed you lied. Evaluators would look for any basis to deny based on the false assumption that many veterans lie when it comes to disability compensation and PTSD. If true, this would mean many veterans were falsely denied compensation and in turn denied proper health care treatment that would have relied on the compensation determination.

Fear no more. That is right my friends. Veterans, by and large, are usually just as honest today as the day they swore to protect the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. While every group has some rotten apples no doubt, the Army has apparently pulled back its previously suspicious position of screwing its troops (pre-2012). What I have a hard time believing is the fact that Army seemed to embrace this reality.

Here is part of what the Army policy memo says:

Although there has been debate on the role of symptom exaggeration or malingering for secondary gain in DoD and VA PTSD Disability Evaluation System (DES} processes, there is considerable evidence that this is rare and unlikely to be a major factor in the vast majority of disability determinations.  Strong evidence comes from an internal 2005 study by the VA Office of the Inspector General showing that of 2,100 VA disability cases rated at 50% or higher, only 13 (0.6%} had evidence that they were potentially fraudulent (Marx, 2011}.  These findings were later corroborated in a study by Dohwenrend, who found virtually no evidence of attempts by veterans to inflate disability claims (Marx, 2011).  Several other studies have shown that compensation seeking and disability benefits are associated with improved treatment outcomes (Marx, 2011). As a result of these and other studies, the VA recently relaxed policies that required veterans to provide proof of specific combat-related traumatic stressors, essentially accepting that deployment to a war-zone is sufficient to meet the A 1 criterion. This is consistent with evidence from peer-reviewed studies showing that the perception of threat (distinct from the level of actual threat) is an independent predictor of PTSD symptoms, and is also consistent with the DSM-V committee’s current recommended definition change. (Page 5)

I am sure some of you more inquisitive types are wondering, “who the heck is this Marx guy and why doesn’t he work at VA?” Well, you are in luck. Dr. Brian Marx does work at the Boston VA and is a rather outspoken researcher on the subject of veterans not being liars.

What Dr. Marx did

Back in 2008, Dr. Marx called out some of his colleagues who supported claims that veterans malinger a lot. He highlighted how the naysayers used unreliable studies to really disparage veterans in support of creating more studies and spending more tax dollars:

Selective coverage also is reflected in the Frueh et al. presentation of issues concerning malingering. Although they cite extensively from the 2005 report by the VA inspector general, they fail to acknowledge that the same report found that only 13 of 2100 (0.6%) service-connected PTSD cases subjected to detailed review were deemed to be potentially fraudulent. The highly influential study by Dohrenwend et al. cited by Frueh et al. also presented minimal evidence of attempts to inflate disability claims.7

Furthermore, their suggestion that 53% of treatment-seeking (especially compensation-seeking) veterans exaggerate symptoms or malinger on psychological tests is based on a small sample drawn from a clinical setting.8 The evidence is further limited by reliance on a measure of malingering that has not been validated in relation to assessment of PTSD outside a forensic setting. In addition, interpretation is tempered by previous research suggesting that, among veterans with PTSD, putative symptom exaggeration may be as much a sign of severe distress and psychiatric comorbidity as malingering.9 Even if the limitations of the study are ignored, the finding that service connection for PTSD was equally common for veterans who showed purported signs of symptom exaggeration and those who did not is inconsistent with the hypothesized negative impact of VA psychiatric disability policies.

How Army defines “malingering” and how to evaluate it:

Malingering: Although the influence of secondary gain is an important clinical consideration in the differential diagnosis, the diagnosis of malingering should not be made unless there is substantial and definitive evidence from collateral or objective sources that there are false or grossly exaggerated symptoms that are consciously produced for external incentives. Poor effort testing on psychological/ neuropsychological tests does not equate to malingering, which requires proof of intent, per OTSG/MEDCOM Policy 11-076. In addition, this diagnosis requires the signatures of two credentialed care providers, including a supervisor, Department Chief, or Deputy Commander for Clinical Services {OTSG/MEDCOM Policy 11-076). (Page 7)

The Army policy memo also defines Adjustment Disorder and Personality Disorder. These are two big whammies Army was using from 2001 to 2010 to screw troops out of proper benefits. The Army trick was to re-categorize the person’s conditions to avoid paying out medical retirement and related VA disability. Be sure to check that out if you are interested.

Keep in mind, this policy just expired two weeks ago, so it is no longer binding. However, it should give any reader a good idea of what Army had changed its position from when it treats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions.

Read More: Army Policy

OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 12-035

 

Read More: Dr. Brian Marx

Military-Related PTSD, Current Disability Policies, and Malingering

 

J. Edward Venon jr.
J. Edward Venon jr.

I HAVE BEEN IN THE SYSTEM SINCE 1979 AND NOW I ACTUALLY KNOW WHY. THANK YOU BROTHER BENJAMIN. ALTHOUGH THIS DOES NOT “CURE” MYMALADIES, IT DOES “LIGHTEN” THE LOAD.

Ron Nesler
I have been through living mental and emotional Hell with PTSD since serving 15 months in a combat unit in the Vietnam war. Every VA clinician or administrator and ALL politicians and Congressional staffers I have dealt with in the past 40 years have automatically assumed I was lying about my condition to scam the system. That has been at least as traumatic for me as the stress in the war that created my PTSD. Thank you for publishing this… Read more »
Lawrence Kelley III
What all this proves to me, Ben, is that a culture of self-deception and practiced deceit runs all through the VA system, especially at VA Central Office (VACO), and has for a very, very long time. The proof supporting your remarks in this article is the April 16, 2007 cover story for US News & World Report entitled, “CHEATING OUR VETS: HOW THE PENTAGON (& VA) IS SHORTCHANGING WOUNDED SOLDIERS.” This explosive story told in shocking detail how the DoD… Read more »
Lawrence Kelley III
I think that now that the Phoenix VAMC has been proven to have engaged in hostile actions to veterans in dire need of medical care by keeping them off the books, the next big step for Congress is to grant whistleblower protection to any VA employee who presents reasonably credible information of wrongdoing and corruption by other VA employees and management officials. As Dr. Sam Foote stated as the story unfolded, many VA employees would prefer to speak out, but… Read more »
Oswaldo
Oswaldo

Like most of us know this from experience but to see it documented and researched is something else. At the minimal VETERANS are traumatized everyday just in training accidents, let alone overseas duty in nations that hate us and the little skirmishes that happen all the time. And then there are the war trauma! It blows my mind how there can be any doubt about a VETERANS claim at all. Nice find Benjamin! TY

Stephen J MGeady
Stephen J MGeady

Thank You Benjamin. It is time to weed out the people at the VA,who are so Biased against us Veterans.Good to find a report backing what millions of Veterans know to be true. Thank You Again. God Bless

John R. Bodine PN1, USN (Ret)
John R. Bodine PN1, USN (Ret)

Jul 5, 2014,
I to just discovered this same article and a couple of others that preceded it. I am working with a family that the the son has PTSD and I doubt that his command is working with him through this

james
Hello, I was shot in the head in 1972 in germany, by a german citizen point blank and survived. When I was discharged in 1973, I went to a v.a. hospital who would not give me treatment for p.t.s.d. stating you must have a service connected disability to seek care. I told them I was shot in the face. They told me to file for disability and when I did, I was told the v.a. has not record of me… Read more »
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