Psychological Consultative Exams for Social Security Claimants
By: Disability Group
Many claimants are alarmed when they first receive a letter informing them that the Social Security Administration(SSA) has decided to send them for a psychological consultative exam (CE). While failure to attend may hurt your claim, perhaps even result in a dismissal, the CE is nothing to worry about if you are properly prepared.
Before the Exam
Generally, SSA sends claimants to a psychological CE exam when they have mentioned something in their application or in phone interviews that may indicate a mental health problem. Many claimants with no mental health issues are sent to psychological CE’s because they have mentioned trouble concentrating or depression related to illness or lack of ability to work. A psychological CE does not necessarily mean that SSA thinks you have a mental problem, but that they want to be sure that any possible information that could contribute to your inability to work is documented.
During the Exam
The CE will be completed by a medical doctor who is hired by SSA to write a report on your current status; not to treat your disabilities. When you arrive at the CE, the doctor will have reviewed the medical information that SSA has on file for you and will use this as well as his exam to assess your psychological state and send in a report of about to 7 pages to SSA.
The first couple of pages address the doctor’s observations – did you arrive on time, drive yourself, where you properly dressed and groomed, or were there any strange occurrences related to your appearance or arrival? The next pages address your history. The doctor will ask you your story, why you are here, where you came from, and about your childhood. Your ability to remember and give details will be documented in the report. Finally, the doctor begins the exam portion. It consists of a few questions used to assess your judgment and ability to perform simple tasks. For example, you may be asked to spell “world” backward, explain what is meant by “the grass is greener on the other side”, or detail what you would do if you found a stamped, addressed envelope on the sidewalk.
After the Exam
There are some things you can do to help your case after the exam. First, note the time the examination begins and ends. You can send a written statement of the length of exam to your attorney for review, to determine whether it should be submitted into the record. Also, you have the right to review and comment, or even object to the report once it is issued. The report will be entered into evidence, but the judge will assess the credibility and accuracy of the report and any comment to the report when you go to your social security disability hearing.
Second, remember that social security regulations provide that the opinion of a treating physician should be given greater weight than that of a doctor hired by SSA for the purposes of providing a report, provided that the treating doctors’ records support his opinion. If you disagree with the results of a psychological CE, the most important thing you can do is get regular treatment and reports from a doctor who knows you and your illness in order to contradict the CE report at your hearing.