Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Psychologist Exam for Social Security Disability

If you file for disability benefits with the social security administration and one of your allegations (allegations, or alleged conditions, are simply the physical and mental conditions that you list when you submit your claim) is mental in nature, there's a fair chance that you'll be sent to a mental consultative examination of some type; more so if the record of treatment is slim.

What is a mental consultative examination? In most cases, this will be a psychological exam performed by a psychologist who is not employed by the social security administration, but who has agreed to conduct testing on a contract basis for SSA. These exams do not determine the outcome of disability cases by themselves. However, they do provide additional medical record documentation that can, in instances, have a considerable effect on the outcome of cases.

As a former examiner, I can state that the majority of consultative exams, both physical and mental, are scheduled simply because the disability examiner is lacking recent medical records and needs recent documentation in order to close the case. However, when it comes to mental exams, the case is often not just lacking for "recency" but substantive documentation. In other words, a claimant may be sent to a memory scale exam because there are indications (directly alleged by the claimant or not) of memory deficits. Or, the claimant may be sent to psychological IQ testing because the examiner is attempting to develop the case for impaired cognitive functioning (i.e. borderline intellectual functioning, mental retardation to whatever degree it may or may not exist).

The point of this post? I wanted to highlight something written by an individual regarding a consultative exam that they attended.

"I went to my Psychologist exam and it was only 25 minutes. He had a checklist of questions about my relationships with people, asking to recall words he said earlier, counting backwards, what I did that I cannot do now besides work. He did not ask me about the pain I suffer from nor did we review my medical reports. I thought this appeared very quickly, so I'm not sure what the outcome will be. I only hope that the decision will be based on the six inch thick notebook I provided with detailed medical reports.".

As you can see from this individual's reported experience, exams can be fairly short. The claimant noted that the examining psychologist for social security did not make an inquiry regarding the claimant's pain. However, to be frank, this is not the job of the psychologist. The psychologist who performs an examination for social security has an even more defined role than the independent medical doctor who conducts physical exams for social security because mental testing follows a precise format.

Lastly, the individual noted that they had supplied medical records. Can this be beneficial? As a former disability examiner, my answer is yes. There were several occasions during the development of a case that I had difficulty procuring medical records from one treatment source or another, only to finally get the needed records because the claimant/patient had made a personal visit to their doctor to gather the records.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

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Mental Disability - Social Security Disability, SSI, and Mental Disabilities
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Social Security Disability List of Impairments
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