How to answer questions at a Social Security Disability CE examination

Someone asked this question about disability exams:

"I have a CE exam for my SS disability claim which I am filing for bipolar. I am worried that I might say the wrong thing, or not say the right thing, or not be taken seriously."

This begs the question. Can you say the wrong thing during a CE exam?

My answer to that--and, mind you, this is just my own answer and opinion based on my subjective experience of having been a disability examiner--is no. You really can't say the wrong thing at a physical CE (consultative exam, otherwise known as a Social Security Disability medical exam). And to be honest, the examining physician isn't really that interested in talking to you, versus examining you so he can submit his or her CE report.

On the other hand, if you feel discomfort or pain, or have difficulty with range of motion in a joint, or have trouble getting onto the examining table, you shouldn't minimize this either.

Let me elaborate. The last thing you want to do at a physical consultative exam is exaggerate your condition by going on and on about it.

Why? Some of the doctors who perform CEs for social security have a negative bias against disability claimants (which brings up the question, why the heck are they doing these exams anyway? Answer: easy money). And appearing as if you're trying to embellish the effects of your condition may only activate the examining physician's built-in bias.

However, by the same token, you shouldn't try to hide your pain or discomfort or appear as if you don't have limitations. You may ask yourself, what individual who is filing for disability would try to minimize their problems when they are being seen at a medical exam? It happens all the time. And it seems to happen on the part of older individuals who, perhaps, are a little embarrassed to be applying for disability.

However, the act of applying for disability is not something anyone should feel embarrassed about. The truth is, Social Security Disability benefits are not a handout. They are benefits provided by insurance, insurance that you pay for through your FICA deductions.

So, back to the question, the answer is:

1. Don't embellish your condition when speaking to a doctor at an exam.

2. Don't hide your pain or discomfort or limitations either.

3. Just answer the doctor's questions honestly and fully.

Now, in this post we've discussed physical social security exams. Question: can you say the wrong thing at a Social Security Disability mental exam? And the answer to that question is in a near-future post.

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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