A neuropsychological evaluation is one of the best ways to prove the severity and nature of a cognitive and/or psychological long term disability. This is because the evaluation will provide a detailed and objective assessment of your cognitive abilities in a way that medical records alone cannot.
Learn whether a neuropsychological evaluation may help prove your long term disability claim.
What types of claims might benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation?
Typically, any claim that involves cognitive dysfunction may benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation. Cognitive dysfunction can manifest differently depending on your diagnosis and often varies greatly among people with the same diagnosis. Some conditions that are known to cause cognitive dysfunction include:
- Brain injury
- Organic brain disorders
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain tumor or cyst
- Ménière’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses
- Chronic pain
- Neurotoxin exposure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep apnea
- Psychological disorders (i.e., bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychotic disorders, severe depression, etc.)
- Medication side-effects
If you suffer from one of these conditions, or any other condition causing cognitive dysfunction, then your claim may benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation.
What does neuropsychological testing measure?
Neuropsychological testing objectively and scientifically measures how your impairment is impacting your memory, learning perception, problem solving, speed processing, verbal functioning, and executive functioning, among other things. The evaluation usually also includes IQ testing and screening for any primary or secondary psychological diagnoses. It also will include validity testing to demonstrate the reliability of the test results.
What will the evaluation involve?
The neuropsychologist will perform a series of tests and collect objective “raw data” based on your responses. The neuropsychologist will then review and interpret the raw data to draw conclusions about your level of cognitive functioning in each area of testing. The evaluation can vary in duration depending on the thoroughness of testing, but it is typically performed over the course of one to two days.
What conclusions can be drawn from a neuropsychological evaluation?
Many conclusions can be drawn from a valid neuropsychological evaluation, including your primary diagnosis, secondary diagnosis (if applicable), your deficits in specific areas of cognitive functioning, and how those deficits impact your ability to work. The results provide the insurance company with strong and objective evidence to demonstrate why you are having trouble:
- Meeting productivity standards
- Remembering procedures
- Paying attention, focusing, and/or concentrating for extended periods
- Following conversations
- Understanding verbally communicated material
- Dealing with stress
- Staying on task
- Meeting deadlines
- Performing tasks with precision and accuracy
- Staying productive
- Articulating your thoughts
- Analyzing complex material
- Processing and comprehending written material in a timely and efficient manner
- Performing computations
- Remembering details
- Maintaining your schedule
The results may also reveal the need for further treatment. For example, the neuropsychologist may recommend psychiatric care or behavioral therapy for an underlying psychological disorder that is exacerbating your cognitive dysfunction.
The results may also suggest that further testing and evaluations is necessary. For example, if the neuropsychologist suspects that your cognitive functioning is related to an underlying organic or neurological disorder, she may recommend that you undergo diagnostic imaging of the brain.
Is a neuropsychological evaluation reliable?
Yes, it certainly can be. Insurance companies actually consider valid neuropsychological evaluation results to be the most reliable type of evidence to demonstrate the presence of a cognitive disorder and/or cognitive dysfunction.
In fact, if you are claiming that your disability is related to cognitive symptoms, but have yet to undergo a neuropsychological evaluation, the insurance company may require you to undergo the testing with one of their “independent” neuropsychologists. Of course, the insurance company’s neuropsychologists are far from independent since they are getting paid by the insurance company. Thus, there is an incentive for the insurance company’s neuropsychologist to find that your cognitive dysfunction is not severe or -- even worse -- non-existent. In general, you are much more likely to get reliable results from a genuinely objective neuropsychologist who has no affiliation with the insurance company.
In order for the results to be considered reliable, the insurance company will want to see that you passed the evaluation’s “validity testing.” Validity testing measures both the consistency of your responses and the effort you put forth during testing to ensure that you did not intentionally try to influence the results. Thus, you are much more likely to pass the validity testing if you consistently put forth your best efforts during testing. If you do not pass the validity testing, the insurance company is very unlikely to give any deference to the results.
How can a long term disability attorney help?
There are a number of ways that an experienced long term disability attorney can help.
First, your attorney will be able to identify whether neuropsychological testing may be necessary. Depending on your particular symptoms and the stage of your claim, your attorney can anticipate whether the insurance company will want to see neuropsychological testing and make the recommendation accordingly.
Second, your attorney will be able to recommend which tests the neuropsychologist should perform so that the results fully demonstrate your disability to the extent possible.
Third, your attorney will be able to help provide the neuropsychologist with all necessary background information and medical records for review prior to your evaluation. This will help ensure that the neuropsychologist is familiar with your condition and symptoms prior to beginning the testing.
Fourth, your attorney will be able to review the neuropsychologist’s report to identify any inaccuracies or inconsistencies that may require correction by an addendum.
Lastly, your attorney will be able to interpret the report to determine whether it is favorable to your claim. If the report is favorable, your attorney may help highlight the most favorable portions for the insurance company’s review. If the report is unfavorable, your attorney may recommend additional testing and/or comments from your treating providers.
The experienced attorneys and staff at Riemer Hess are well-versed in neuropsychological evaluations. Contact an attorney at Riemer Hess today to discuss whether neuropsychological testing may help bolster your long term disability claim.