What to expect at a Social Security Disability psychological exam

What should you expect at a Social Security Disability psychological exam?

What should you expect at a Social Security Disability psychological exam?

When you file a disability claim or an appeal, it is the duty of the Social Security Disability specialist to obtain medical evidence prior to making their medical disability determination. They will obtain medical records from your psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional. Once they have this information they have to determine if it is current (ninety days old or less) and if your medical records provide enough information to make their disability determination.

What to expect from the exam

The psychologist/psychiatrist will identify you and will begin the examination. They will review your mental health treatment records with you. They will conduct any testing necessary for the disability determination.

They may ask questions with regard to how long you have been in treatment, or how do you think your mental condition affects your ability to work, or perform routine daily activities. While they ask these questions, they will be observing things about you. For instance, they will observe your ability to communicate, remember things, your mood, eye contact, judgment or insight, etc. to complete in order to complete their mental evaluation.

Once they have conducted their examination they must prepare a report that includes their assessment of the severity of your mental condition, their evaluation of the limitations imposed upon you by your condition, and their opinion as to your ability to perform substantial gainful work activity.

Who will perform the mental exam?

Social Security would prefer your mental health professional conduct the consultative examination, however they will use independent mental health professionals to conduct testing and mental health/status examinations when necessary. There are a variety of reasons why Social Security might use an independent source for a psychiatric evaluation or psychological examination. An independent source might be used in the following situations:

Your treating psychiatrist or psychologist cannot perform or decides not to perform your consultative examination.

You may prefer to have an independent mental health professional and you are able to provide the disability specialist with valid reasons for your request.

Your medical records may contain irregularities that cannot be addressed by your treating mental health professional because they are the cause of the irregularities.

Perhaps your treating mental health professional has not been a productive source for medical records or information, thus a consultative examination is required.

Lastly, consultative psychological examinations may be requested to further clarify information contained in your medical records. Keep in mind, your treating medical health providers write their notes for themselves not for disability determinations.

Whatever the reason, consultative examinations are fairly routine in the Social Security Disability determination process.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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