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Can the Results of the Social Security Psychological Exam help get you Approved?

Mental Exams vs Physical Exams

Actually, the results of a consultative examination, i.e. a social security medical exam, that is mental in nature will have a much better chance of getting a claimant approved on a Social Security Disability claim or SSI disability claim than a physical consultative examination (CE). I say this from my perspective of being a former disability examiner at DDS (disability determination services) where claims are decided for the social security administration.

Why physical consultative exams often don't help much

Typically, the physical exams that are given are very short, and are only cursory in nature. The examining physician, who knows practically nothing about the claimant or their medical history, will generally give a brief examination that only results in him or her recording an individual's muscle strength, reflexes, and vitals.

The doctor will also make observations about the individual's balance and gait (they have even been known to observe claimants as they walked to and from their car to see if they were "faking" being disabled...which tells you something about how some consultative physicians actually feel about disability claimants in general).

As you would expect, based on this description of a physical CE (consultative examination), not many cases can be expected to be won based on the findings obtained after such an exam.

In cases where a person is approved for disability after a CE has been done, it is likely that the disability examiner really had enough positive medical evidence in the file to approve the case, but needed some "recent" medical documentation (recent being defined as within the last 90 days) in order to be allowed to close the case.

For those who are unaware, social security requires recent medical records before a case can be approved, which makes sense since they are essentially certifying the individual as disabled from that point forward.

In contrast to the effect that a physical exam has on a claim, a consultative exam that is mental in nature is more likely to have a beneficial effect, as long as the results are considered to be:

A) Valid (and sometimes they are not if it is determined that the individual is exaggerating their symptoms or are deliberately giving less than their best effort on testing)


B) Supported by the remainder of the medical evidence.

Types of mental exams and how they can affect a claim

Mental consultative exams fall into several categories. They may be brief mental status exams, they may be full fledged psychiatric evaluations, or they may be comprised of methodical testing, such as a memory scale exam, or an intelligence test.

Mental exams can help win a claim in particular cases where a person has never had a certain type of testing and, as a result, does not have the needed evidence in their file. For example, they may have memory issues or a drop in IQ, but without test results, this cannot be proven. Very few individuals will have this type of testing before they file a claim for disability, so a mental exam can help fill in a crucial evidence gap.

Also, it is common for a person to have anxiety or depression as a disability, but no formal treatment. A mental status exam, or a psychiatric exam, can provide needed, recent evidence to address these issues, though it goes without saying that if you are applying for disability based on one of these conditions, you should seek treatment and get it documented.

It cannot be understated that for individuals who have never been given mental testing, the results of a mental CE can add tremendously to their case because it can supply the type of objective (or subjective in the case of a psychiatric evaluation by a trained psychiatrist) evidence that their file is missing.

And if the results of a mental CE lean particularly in the direction of approving a case, it will become much more difficult for a disability examiner (or their supervisor) to take the position that the individual is not disabled and should be denied for disability.

Related: What can I expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?

Essential Questions

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Related pages:

Do the Results of the Social Security Psychological Exam have any Bearing on Being Approved?
What does it mean if Social Security sends you to a Psychiatrist?
Getting a Social Security Disability Determination After Seeing a Psychologist at a Mental Evaluation
The Psychologist Exam for Social Security Disability and SSI Claims
Social Security Disability Mental Testing
Getting approved for mental disability benefits in North Carolina
Can I file a disability claim for my adult child who lacks mental capacity?
Qualifying for disability in California
How do I apply for disability in Benefits in California
Applying for Disability in California

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.