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SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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Tips for Social Security Disability Psychological and mental testing
If you file an application 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 Social Security 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).
Tip 1: exams can be long or short.
I came across someone else's blog and the individual was commenting on the fact that her mother was sent to a consultative examination (a CE exam) for her social security disability application. The exam was a psychological CE, designed to gauge a client's mental status and level of psychological functional limitations.
The blogger indicated that the exam took 2 1/2 hours to complete. Not every psychological CE may take this long, but there's no question that the mental exams scheduled by social security are not at all like consultative physical exams---not when it comes to the time element (it is extremely common to hear a disability claimant state that their physical consultative exam took only ten minutes).
On the other hand, this was 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 also 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.
Tip 2: make sure you are properly rested before testing.
A claimant who is required to attend a psychological exam would probably find it beneficial to get a decent amount of sleep the night before because if it seems apparent to the psychologist administering the exam that "best effort" was not given, the exam results may be considered invalid. That, of course, amounts to a waste of time for everyone, including the disability claimant. Tip 2: never give less than your best effort.
Here's another tip: never try, for whatever reason, to deliberately manipulate the results of a psychological exam, because the individuals who administer such examinations are fairly expert at detecting this and will, typically note in the exam report any attempt to influence the outcome of the test.
Here is a comment from a psychologist who conducts mental consultative exams for the social security administration (actually, the state agency that handles disability determinations for SSA, which in most states is known as DDS, or disability determination): "Saying that the people who administer the mental exams are fairly expert at detecting malingering is an understatement. I'm a psychologist that does these exams and you waste my time and yours if you do this."
As a disability examiner, I can personally recall a situation in which an individual with diminished IQ--ironically enough--made three deliberate attempts to fool the psychologist by giving a poor effort on his testing. He was denied. The sad thing is that he would have been approved, most likely, if he had simply allowed himself to take the test without trying to manipulate the outcome. The point is pretty clear. Don't try to cheat, i.e. manipulate the test results.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Social Security Disability Mental Testing
What does it mean if Social Security sends you to a Psychiatrist?
Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits IF You Have A Mental Condition But Do Not Take Medication?
What is the process for approving a Social Security disability claim?
Tips for Social Security Disability Psychological and mental testing
How Long does a Social Security Disability Determination take After Seeing the Psychologist?
Social Security Disability Mental Psychological Exam and Questions that get Asked
Does social security deny strong disability claims?
Social Security Disability is different from VA disability
Why are you denied the first time you are denied for disability?
What Happens To Social Security Disability Benefits After Divorce?
Can I do What I want with my Social Security Back Pay?
How much information should you put on a disability application?
What disability claimants get angry about - Part I
Social Security and not getting the medical records
Social Security Disability will sometimes order X-rays but never an MRI
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits
How to file for disability, filing tips
What to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits
Applying for disability benefits, SSI and SSDI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability?
Will you get disability back pay?
Social Security Disability And SSI Qualifications
Permanent Disability Qualifications for SSD and SSI
Social Security Disability SSI status
Disability lawyer representation, finding lawyers
Who will qualify for disability and what qualifying is based on
Qualifications for Disability Benefits
Important points about filing for disability
How long does it take to get disability after applying?
Am I Eligible For Social Security Disability?
Who is eligible for SSI disability?
How to get disability in Florida