Disability Decisions after mental exams
by Tim Moore, Disability Representative in North Carolina
Most consultative exams (CEs), be they physical or mental, are scheduled because the disability examiner needs recent medical information about the status of your condition. Social Security defines “recent” as within the past 90 days, so if you haven’t seen your physician within this time period you will probably be required to attend a CE. There are also some instances in which a CE is needed to clarify issues about your physical or mental condition that are not clear from your medical records.
If you have applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and your disability examiner schedules you for a psychological exam performed by a psychologist, it typically takes 2 to 3 weeks after the exam to receive a determination from Social Security.
Why does the decision take this long?
The psychologist who performs the Social Security exam, or CE, has 10 business days after the exam to submit a report to DDS, the state disability determination services agency that decides all initial disability applications and reconsideration appeals for Social Security. Of course, not all physicians meet this deadline, and a prompt response is not guaranteed.
Then there is the matter of the disability examiner’s caseload. If the examiner has a significant backlog, it could be some time after your CE before the examiner has a chance to go over the psychologist’s findings. And, even after reviewing the results of the CE, the examiner must get his unit psychological or medical consultant’s opinion before rendering a decision and submitting that decision to the unit supervisor for review.
However, if you are being sent to a psychological CE, take heart, because this usually signals that the disability examiner has already reviewed your medical and work history, and is only doing what is necessary to tie up any loose ends before making a decision.
Will a mental exam by a psychologist help you win?
Consultative exams usually serve the purpose of simply providing some recent evidence so the case can be decided and closed. However, very often when individuals are sent to a mental exam, it is because they have never had their memory or cognitive abilities tested, so the exam results may very well provide what is needed to win disability benefits.