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Will I have to go to a mental examination if I apply for disability?

I recently found this statement in a forum.

"They may also ask you to go to see a shrink to determine if depression is a factor with your inability to work. Do they expect that one should be not depressed over all of this?"

Actually, it would be unusual for anyone who has to apply for disability to not experience some level of depression. The process is long, confusing, and somewhat adversarial. And most claimants, at some point in the disability evaluation process, are subjected to severe stress as a result of the financial implications of having to wait for months or years for a favorable resolution on a social security disability or SSI claim.

Will you have to go to a mental exam if you need to file for disability?

Examinations that are required by SSA are known as consultative examinations, or CEs for short. Consultative exams are scheduled by disability examiners at the inital claim and first appeal levels, and by administrative law judges at the hearing level.

Why are they scheduled? In most cases, because a claimant has not been to a doctor recently. And in other cases, a consultative exam (often referred to as a social security medical exam) may be scheduled because a claimant's records indicate the possible existence of a condition for which a claimant has never received treatment.

So, to answer the question, a claimant will sometimes be sent to a psychological or psychiatric consultative examination:

1. if they've not been treated for their condition recently.

2. if there is no evidence that they've ever been treated for a condition they may have "potentially" have (for this reason, an applicant for disability benefits who does not allege a mental condition but shows signs of having a mental impairment, however scant, may be sent to a psychological exam (IQ testing), a psychiatric evaluation, or a mental status exam).

3. if additional information of a specific type is missing from the claimant's medical records (xrays, for instance).

Note the phrase in item 2: Potentially have. What do I mean by this? Here's what I mean---if a disability examiner or judge sees in your personal physician's notes the simple statement "patient seems depressed", then the adjudicator (the examiner or judge) may be obligated to send you to a mental consultative exam even if you do not claim to be depressed on your application and have never sought treatment for depression.

In fact, many disability claimants are very surprised when they are informed that they must attend a mental exam when they have filed for disability on the basis of a purely physical impairment, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or the spinal condition degenerative disc disease, or heart problems.

However, a disability examiner or judge may be obligated to schedule a mental exam simply to ensure that the claimant receives full consideration for their impairments...even impairments they do not believe they have.

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

Related pages:

Psychologist Exam for Social Security Disability and SSI
Social Security psychological exam results
Social Security Disability, SSI, and Mental Testing
What to expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
If Social Security sends you to a Psychiatrist

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

Disability qualifications - Who will qualify is based on functional limitations
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
What conditions do they Award Disability Benefits for?
How does back pay for Social Security disability work?
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI? Part I
To get a Social Security Disability or SSI Award do you have to have a Permanent Disability?
Social Security Disability Status - when should I call to check
Do Lawyers Improve The Chances of Winning Social Security Disability or SSI?
What is qualifying for disability based on?
How to qualify for disability - The Process of Qualifying for Benefits
Receiving a Social Security Disability Award Letter
How long does it take to get disability?
Filing and applying for disability in Texas