Social Security Disability: How ‘Malingering’ Can Get You into Trouble

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“Malingering” is the legal term for faking or exaggerating a disability in order to receive disability benefits that you are not entitled to. Malingering is quite common, and it carries significant penalties if it is detected. An even greater danger, however, is that you will be accused of malingering even though you are innocent, resulting in the denial of benefits that you are entitled to. An understanding of how the system works can help you avoid such a disaster.

Behavior that Could Get You Accused of Malingering

Doctors are familiar with malingering because it simply happens so soften. They are trained to recognize it when they see it — and, unfortunately, sometimes even when they don’t. If you want to minimize your chances of being accused of malingering, observe the following rules:

  • Do not ask for a particular drug by name, especially if it is a narcotic.
  • Try as hard as you can on tests of your physical and mental abilities, even though performing too well could reduce the benefits you are eligible for or even eliminate them altogether.
  • Do not consistently reporting “10 out of 10” on pain evaluations, unless it is true and your medical records are consistent with this description.
  • Never mention disability benefits to your doctor until the existence of your disability has been firmly established.

An accusation of malingering could get you targeted for a disability fraud investigation, which is even worse than an IRS audit, and it could eventually get you denied for benefits that you are in fact eligible for. In some cases, serious legal consequences might ensue (see below).

Malingering Fraud Audits

The Social Security Administration routinely conducts Cooperative Disability Investigations of disability claims that they consider potentially fraudulent. A CDI unit was established in Kentucky in 2011. Nationwide, billions of dollars in disability benefits have been denied based on findings of fraud.

Legal Consequences

The legal consequences of a determination of a malingering can be serious. They can include:

  • An assessment of back benefits from you (you would have to return benefits that have already been paid to you);
  • Fines; and
  • Felony criminal charges and even incarceration (in extreme cases).

Malingering vs. Psychological Disorders

Is a hypochondriac who exaggerates or imagines his symptoms malingering, or is he simply mentally ill? This is an important question, since mental illness can sometimes qualify people for disability benefits. Chronic hypochondria is known as “factitious disorder”, which is a recognized mental illness, as is somatoform disorder, which causes imaginary symptoms. Without a good lawyer, however, it could be difficult to distinguish between these conditions and malingering.

Take Decisive Action Now

It is best to retain a lawyer before you file for disability, rather than waiting until a problem arises, because an experienced disability lawyer can help you avoid problems that can be difficult to extricate yourself from once they have arisen.

Contact Kentucky workers’ compensation and disability lawyer Glenn Martin Hammond at (606) 437-7777, or fill out our online contact form, to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation where we can discuss your case. You will owe us nothing, ever, unless we win your case.

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