Neuropsychological Testing in Long Term Disability Insurance Claims
Author: Attorney Stephen Jessup
Neuropsychological testing is highly specialized testing performed by a neuropsychologist to identify and provide objective medical evidence of cognitive dysfunction. It is a highly valuable tool in establishing a claim for disability that involves various cognitive problems such as memory, thought processing and executive functioning. This becomes vitally important as most insurance companies will treat an insured’s complaints of memory problems or thinking as simply a matter of “self-reported symptoms” and will then quickly dismiss them as unverified.
The testing is most often used in claims involving traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and mental health claims stemming from depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. However, neuropsychological testing can also be used in conjunction with other medical evidence to support disability claims stemming from physical medical conditions including the gamut of chronic pain conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune conditions.
As the benefits of neuropsychological testing for neurological conditions, mental health disorders and traumatic brain injuries are relatively straight forward I’ll focus on the benefits of the testing as it relates to physical medical conditions. Many people suffering from physical medical conditions, to include but certainly not limited to: chronic pain conditions, chronic fatigue conditions, and autoimmune conditions report problems with concentration, memory, thought processing, etc. Cognitive problems stemming from physical medical conditions typically result on account of two general categories: (1) actual symptoms of the condition that make it hard to concentrate (pain or fatigue) and/or (2) the side effects of medications.
In many cases a claim for disability benefits stemming from one of the aforementioned physical medical conditions will be denied after the insurance carrier determines that one can work in a Sedentary demand level, or essentially that they have the ability to work a desk job. For an appreciable number of people filing disability due to physical medical conditions they can physically perform at a Sedentary level, but their real limitations are due to the fact job requires the ability to think, concentrate, remember, etc., and the pain/fatigue and/or side effects of their medication affect their ability to perform these tasks. In situations like this, if the cognitive problems are severe enough, a neuropsychological examination can help establish these limitations and in turn provide evidence to combat the insurance company’s position that the ability to perform at a Sedentary physical demand means that a person is not disabled on account of their condition.
It wouldn’t be necessary or appropriate to undergo neuropsychological testing in every claim for disability insurance benefits, but dependent on the specific facts of a case it may be a vital piece of information to assist in getting benefits approved.