Can you Trust the Doctor who does the Social Security Disability Medical Exam?
I've written many times about the doctors who perform physical medical examinations for the social security administration. These doctors are independent physicians who have contracted to provide a service by conducting short examinations of disability claimants. They do not work for social security as opposed to the doctors who work with disability examiners in case processing units (these doctors are known as unit medical consultants).
Just the same, however, most claimants who go to a examination routinely refer to these doctors as "social security doctors". They also end up telling remarkably the same stories about their exam (which is technically referred to as a CE or consultative examination) experiences.
How do the stories go? Typically, like this:
1. The exam was short (ten minutes seems about average as the reported length)
2. The exam was really short (less than five minutes).
3. The doctor knew nothing about the claimant or the claimant's medical background (sometimes examiners send copies of selected bits of medical evidence to the examining doctor to fill them in regarding the claimant's medical history, but usually not).
4. The doctor had a specialization that seemed "out of place" (e.g. a gynecologist giving a neurological exam).
5. The doctor was rude (this seems extremely common).
Well, here's another characterization of the doctors who perform examinations for social security. Sometimes, they are the enemy. Here's an example. They observe claimants from their office window, looking to see whether or not the claimant is exaggerating their symptoms.
I've seen this one on a number of consultative examination reports myself (exam reports are supposed to be sent to disability examiners within ten business days following the examination). And, typically, I didn't assign the remark much weight simply because pain and the ability to ambulate without noticeable restriction tend to be somewhat transient phenomena. In other words, pain can come and go, and a person's walking ability can seem better or worse throughout the course of a day.
However, the fact that consultative exam doctors make such remarks and make such observations points to one thing. Don't assume that the doctor who is examining you is a disinterested party. Sometimes, these doctors have their own biases and can work against you. Just remember that when you go to an exam, the doctor may be watching you more than you realize.
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