Monday, May 12, 2008



Social Security Disability Psychological Exam and Questions that get Asked

What are some of the questions you may be asked if you are sent to a psychological exam for social security disability? We'll answer that in part two of this post. However, part one will briefly discuss what social security examinations are.

Part I - Consultative Examinations for Social Security Disability and SSI

If you file for social security disability or SSI disability, there is always the chance that, during the processing of your claim, you may be sent to what is known as a consultative examination. Consultative exams are scheduled in two basic types of scenarios: A) When a claimant has not been seen by a treatment specialist (this could be a physician or psychiatrist) for an appreciable amount of time or B) when a claimant has a condition for which he or she does not seem to have any medical record documentation.

In the case of A, claimants are often sent to mental or physical exams if they have not been seen by a treatment specialist for 60 days. Why? Because before social security can make a decision on a disability case, they need to be sure that the decision is being rendered on the basis of recent records. After all, conditions change over time. They worsen, get better, and how a claimant is doing in the present may not be the same as how they were doing two months ago.

In the case of B, it is fairly common that a person who has applied for disability benefits will list depression or anxiety on a disability application while never having been treated for either.

In either scenario, though, a claimant may be sent to a consultative exam. Consultative exams are often referred to as social security medical exams. However, contrary to myth, they are not performed by social security doctors. They are actually conducted by independent private physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists who have agreed to examine disability claimants in return for compensation.

Examinations of this sort are typically fairly short, sometimes lasting as little as ten minutes for physical exams. Mental exams, of course, due to the nature of the testing, are generally longer.

After a consultative examination has been conducted, the physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist who conducted the exam will submit a report to either the disability examiner or the disability judge who requested the exam. In general terms, the individual who conducted the exam is expected to have this report completed and sent within 10 days of the examination.

Can the results of a physical or mental exam make the difference between winning a disability case or losing a disability case? In all honesty, in most cases, the exam does not make much of a difference and it only serves to provide a recent snapshot of a claimant's case (so the adjudicator, or decision-maker, can close the case). However, in the case of mental impairment claims (depression, bipolar disorder, OCD), the results of a mental evaluation can provide what is needed to "push" a case toward an approval or denial.

Part 2 - Questions that are asked on Social Security Mental Exams

If you are sent to a mental examination for a social security disability or SSI disability case, it will fall into one of the following categories: A) A full psychiatric exam, B) A psychological exam that basically equates to an IQ test, C) a mental status exam (MSE) or D) a memory scale (typically for claimants who report difficulty with short term memory).

A memory scale may be ordered for a claimant who has suffered a head injury or a stroke. As an examiner, I've also seen memory scales ordered for claimants with depression and fibromyalgia. Very often, the type of exam a claimant is sent to will depend on the symptoms they list on their disability application and the severity of the symptoms as they describe them. A psychiatric exam conducted by an MD will usually be reserved for individuals with mood disorder, affective disorders, and psychotic disorders. Psychologicals (as we said, basically an IQ test) are often ordered for individuals for whom the record indicates a decline in cognitive ability. Psychologicals are also ordered for claimants with low educational attainment or a history of accomodation in the public school system (special classes).

Mental Status Exams, however, are some of the more frequently given mental exams for social security disability and SSI claims. The purpose of an MSE is to gauge a person's thought processes, memory, language skills, and orientation (i.e. where they are, who they are, when it is, and who others are).

What are some of the questions that get asked? Here are just a few examples: being asked to remember specific items several minutes later; being asked who the current President is; being asked to interpret a common metaphor that most individuals would understand; being asked to count backward subtracting a certain number along the way.




Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog



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What does Social Security Disability consider a Mental Impairment?
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Qualifications for Disability - Social Security (work credits) and SSI
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Application for Disability - SSD and SSI applications
Social Security Disability List of Impairments
Application Requirements For SSI Disability
Disability Requirements - The Criteria for Social Security Disability and SSI
How to Qualify for Disability - social security disability or SSI
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Who is eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI Disability?
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Getting Disability - Social Security Disability and SSI
Tips for Filling out a Social Security Disability Application
How Does Social Security Decide Your Disability Claim ?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had both CE exams, the physical and psychologist or whatever and although the physical was given little weight the psychologist exam was given weight because it help support other files from other services. I was being treated regularly for my issues but still had to endure these so you never can tell what will happen.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

I think in the vast majority of cases, the physical CE is given very little weight. For examiners who process cases, it's simply a procedural hoop to jump through. And, yes, I didn't mention it, but sometimes you can be sent to a CE regardless of how recent your treatment has been. To some extent, it simply depends on the disability examiner and his or her unit supervisors.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The psychologist I was sent to told me at the very least, she thought I'd get a medical card. From what I've been reading, it just sounds like they will automatically deny no matter what the exam shows. Does the report actually have any bearing on being approved or do they make everyone go through the appeals and hearings process. I don't know if I could take it.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

From my experience as a disability examiner, I can tell you that the physical consultative exam often had little bearing on the outcome. Typically, its purpose was just to provide a recent snapshot of the individual's condition and allowed the examiner to close the case. Mental exams, on the other hand, tended to provide more in-depth evidence that was more objective, more detailed, and much more helpful. That's not to say that a person will necessarily be approved based on the results of a mental CE; but the odds are much better than if only a physical CE (consultative exam) had been done.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had both CE exams done months ago. I spoke today with my disability examiner. She sent them 'upstairs' to be evaluated by medical staff in June I think. Anyway, she told me that the medical staff were done with the physical part and were still pending/working on my mental part, either evaluating records or sending for more, I'm not really sure. They don't tell you much, I know they are not supposed to. I became really more depressed because I instantly realized if they had found me disabled physically then why would they waste time and money on the mental? I feel sure I am about to be denied. I am looking for some insight on how to interpret this info? It seems like if you're still breathing then you're denied. I hope you have some words of wisdom. Thank you for this blog that gives people like me somewhere to try to understand this confusing process.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Disability Blogger said...

Anonymous (I had both CE exams done months ago), I responded here: When you file for disability and have both Mental and Physical Conditions

2:45 PM  

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