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Will much happen at a Disability Exam in South Carolina?

Someone wrote this in a forum recently. "Yesterday, I went to my social security disability evaluation. The doctor didn't do much. He just checked to see my range of motion and how strong I was".

That's a fairly simplistic appraisal of a social security medical exam, known officially as a consultative exam, or CE. Was it accurate?

Actually, it wasn't inaccurate in the least. Medical examinations that disability claimants in South Carolina are sent to will fall into one of two categories, mental or physical.


1. What can I expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?
2. How long or short is the Social Security medical exam?
3. The effect of Social Security Medical exams
4. Medical Examinations for Social Security Disability and SSI

Mental examinations take the form of psychological IQ testing, mental status exams, memory scales, or full psychiatric exams. As such, they tend to take considerably longer than physical exams. Physical consultative exams for SSD and SSI cases can sometimes, by contrast, take as little as 10-15 minutes.

What is the examining physician at a CE looking for? Fairly basic observations, including the claimant's strength in extremities, range of motion in major joints, vital signs, and ability to ambulate (walk). The doctor will also be looking for signs of pain and whether or not a claimant's pain may restrict their ambulation, strength, or range of motion.

Not surprisingly, one of the things that doctors will comment on in the consultative examination report that is later sent to the social security administration (technically, these doctors have 10 business days in which to write and submit their report regarding their exam findings) is whether or not the claimant had difficulty getting up onto or off of the examining table.

How useful is a social security disability evaluation if it only captures basic information and generally only lasts a few minutes? That is debatable, but claimants should keep in mind what the actual purpose of a CE exam is. And that is simply to provide the disability decision maker with a bit of recent medical evidence.

Most claimants are not aware of this, but for social security to make a decision on a case, they are required to have recent medical evidence, i.e. some medical evidence that is not older than 90 days.

Therefore, if a claimant has not been seen by a doctor in the last three months, it is possible (or probable) that they will be sent to a social security disability medical exam or evaluation. The purpose of the exam will not be to provide treatment, or to arrive at a diagnosis. The true purpose will simply be for the social security administration to be able to state that recent medical evidence was reviewed prior to a case being closed.

For this reason, it's not surprising that disability exams are fairly basic and fairly short.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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