Be careful of what you do and say at your Social Security disability examination. There is a high probability you will be asked to attend a physical and/or mental examination for the Social Security Administration (SSA) when you apply for Social Security disability. These examinations are called Consultative Exams, commonly referred to as a “CE”. These examinations are not performed by your treating physicians. Instead, the SSA will pay an independent physician to determine what limitations and restrictions you might have because of your disabling conditions.
As previously noted, these physicians are not your doctors, and you will likely only see them the one time. These doctors will not prescribe you medication or provide medical treatment. These doctors will ask questions and may perform some testing in order to assess your restrictions. These doctors are paid per examination, so they make more money the more claimants they examine. Many of my clients have complained that they felt rushed through these examinations. However, if you do not attend a scheduled examination, the SSA may deny your claim.
What can you do to ensure the physician at your CE understands your disabling condition? First, stay focused as to the reason you are there. Do not say things to this physician that have nothing to do with your disability. Going to this examination and complaining about the SSA, the economy, irrelevant family matters, and certain groups of people you do not like can hurt your claim. In my experience, doctors (including your own) write down a wide variety of things that patients bring up at an examination, including these topics not related to medical conditions. I can tell when reading physician’s progress notes and seeing these remarks that this physician obviously did not share your views and made it a point to add these remarks to your medical record. What you say to these doctors and the SSA can influence the outcome of your case.
Second, if you have any relevant objective testing, such as MRIs or X-rays, that show the severity of your medical condition, you may want to bring a copy to show the physician. For example, if you have an MRI of your back that shows severe arthritis, this can influence the physician to believe your complaints of back pain are believable.
When going to a Consultative Exam, it is important to answer the questions you are asked. A simple yes or no may not be sufficient. Explain what your pain feels like, how often you feel it, and how it affects your life. Give sufficient effort when asked to perform physical activities in front of Examiner. They are not asking you to hurt yourself, but you should do what you can so they can give an accurate picture of your capabilities to the the SSA. Later on in your claim, if you find yourself in front of an Administrative law Judge (ALJ), this examination is commonly considered by the Judge. While the Judge does not have to give controlling weight to a CE, it is usually compared with your treating physician’s assessment. A good ALJ will consider all the medical records and make an independent decision weighing all the evidence.