When Social Security Sends You to a Doctor
A Social Security medical exam, which is officially known as a Consultative Examination (CE), is essentially a doctor's appointment during which an independent medical examiner conducts medical testing. The examiner's assessment helps Social Security make a decision regarding your claim. The purpose of a CE is not to arrive at a diagnosis or provide you with treatment. Claimants are typically required to attend a CE if they haven't seen a doctor in the recent past, as Social Security must refer to recent medical evidence when rendering an application decision. To be considered recent, medical evidence must not be older than 90 days. What Are Social Security Medical Exams Like? Social Security CEs are either physical exams or mental health evaluations. The mental health evaluations typically consist of full psychiatric exams, psychological IQ testing, memory scales, and mental status exams, so they take a significant amount of time. On the other hand, the physical exams usually only last between five and ten minutes because they consist of fairly basic tests, such as taking vital signs, looking for signs of pain, assessing muscular strength, and checking the range of motion in the claimant's major joints. The doctor is then required to write a CE report and submit it to Social Security within 10 business days. Contrary to popular belief, CEs are not performed by Social Security Disability doctors. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have its own doctors; it contracts independent physicians to perform the evaluations. Social Security will typically schedule a CE if a claimant's medical records are thin, he hasn't seen a doctor in a while, or it is indicated somewhere in his application or records that he has a condition for which he hasn't received treatment. Claimants should not expect CEs to strengthen their case in any way because the doctors who perform CEs have typically never seen the claimants before. They receive a portion of the claimants' medical records, but that is still no substitute for a longstanding doctor-patient relationship. If Disability Determination Services requests that you attend a CE, there's no need to be concerned, but you do need to make sure that you attend the exam. Failure to attend a CE could be considered a “failure to cooperate” and potentially lead to the denial of your claim. If you are unable to make it to your CE appointment for whatever reason, be sure to have it rescheduled.