Evaluating psychiatric disability: differences by forensic expertise

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



*Disability Evaluation; *Forensic Psychiatry; Humans; Physician's Practice Patterns; Questionnaires


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


The task of evaluating psychiatric disability poses several ethics-related and practical challenges for psychiatrists, especially when they are responding to a request from a third party for a disability evaluation on their own patient. This study sought to evaluate the differences in how forensic and nonforensic psychiatrists approach and view evaluations for Social Security disability benefits. Thirty-two forensic and 75 nonforensic psychiatrists were surveyed on their practice patterns and perceptions of role, objectivity, and dual agency in the disability evaluation process. Significant differences were found between forensic and nonforensic psychiatrists' perceptions of the dual-agency conflict, beliefs about who should perform evaluations, and beliefs about the weight given to different opinions when decisions of whether to award disability benefits are made. A minority of respondents in both groups reported having identified a patient as disabled, despite believing otherwise. The implications of these findings are discussed.


J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2011;39(2):183-8.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed