Social Security Disability Mental Testing
People who file for Social Security Disability (SSD) or SSI benefits on the basis of a mental impairment may be required to attend a social security medical exam, or consultative examination (CE).
Social security requires consultative exams for both physical and mental conditions, usually when there is not enough medical information available for the disability examiner to make a decision on the claim. This is particularly true in the case of mental consultative exams, because so often those with mental conditions have had little or no past medical treatment for their condition. If you have never been treated for your mental impairment, or have not been recently treated (within the past three months) you will probably be scheduled for a mental CE.
Mental CEs are given by either psychiatrists or psychologists, depending on the type of examination scheduled: a psychiatric examination, psychological exam/IQ test. These mental health professionals are not employees of the social security administration, which helps to eliminate the possibility of any bias on their part; however, do not attempt to purposely score poorly on your mental examination, as this is something that is easy for just about any qualified mental health professional to pick up on.
You should always give your best effort in any sort of mental testing, and this means answering all questions to the best of your ability, and under no circumstances giving answers that you know to be incorrect. If the psychiatrist or psychologist performing the test suspects that you are not giving your best effort, you may have to take the test again, and of course your character and your claim will appear questionable to the disability examiner or judge in charge of deciding if you should receive benefits.
In a worst-case scenario, your case may be denied if DDS (disability determination services, the state agency that makes all disability decisions for the social security administration) feels that you are obstructing the disability determination process by refusing to fully cooperate during your CE.
Cooperation also includes showing up for the exam on time and on the date scheduled. If you miss the exam you could potentially be denied for disability benefits based on failure to cooperate (though, typically, at least one missed exam, and sometimes two missed exams, will be rescheduled). This is true even if you are not filing for disability based on a mental condition, but have been asked to attend a CE because your medical records list symptoms such as depression, memory loss, or panic attacks, etc.
Bottom line: If you are scheduled for a mental consultative exam, show up and do your level best'anything less than that will seriously jeopardize your chance of being approved for disability benefits.
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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