Social Security Consultative Medical Exams and How they affect Disability Claims

Because a great many consultative exams are scheduled simply so that the social security administration can obtain recent medical evidence (in the form of the report from the doctor or psychologist conducting the exam), claimants who receive an appointment letter for a consultative exam should not do the following:

1. They should not assume it is a positive or negative sign regarding their case. It is simply a procedural aspect of the processing of their disability claim.

2. They should not assume that their case is close to being finished. Truthfully, in many cases, a consultative examination appointment does mean that a disability examiner is trying to get a case concluded. However, very often, it has little relation to how much longer a case will need to be worked on before a final decision will be made.

Is the final decision on a Social Security Disability or SSI claim based on the information contained in the report from the consultative examination? In a percentage of cases, the CE will provide information that can aid in the determination of a case. That is, the CE can sometimes push a case toward an approval or denial.

However, in most cases the results of a CE exam are just a formality--basically just a way for a disability claim decision-maker to obtain some recent medical evidence that will allow them to close the claim. It should be said, though, that the results of consultatives exams that are mental in nature (a psychiatric exam or psychological testing) are often much more useful in deciding the outcome of a disability case, whereas a physical CE is usually equivalent to a short office visit to a doctor.

This is particularly true since doctors who conduct physical consultative exams will ordinarily conduct a short review of a claimant's strength, coordination, reflexes, senses, and vitals (blood pressure, breathing, etc). In fact, most physical consultative exams are shorter than ten minutes.

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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