Soon after filing for disability benefits, it’s not unusual to get a letter directing you to attend a consultative examination.
Depending on the nature of your disability, the exams can be administered by a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Often, a claimant will have to go to two exams, one to evaluate physical issues, and another to evaluate mental impairments.
These are health care providers, usually fairly close to where you live, who are contracted with Social Security to perform examinations.
They will write down your symptoms and their findings, but do not provide any sort of treatment. Providers should have your medical records and be somewhat familiar with your medical history, though unfortunately this is not always the case.
A physical examination will usually involve a few questions about your symptoms and some brief tests of mobility and range of motion. X-rays, breathing tests, or some other type of medical test may also be required.
Psychological examinations are typically longer, with a psychologist taking a history of symptoms and asking a few questions to determine a claimant’s level of impairment.
These exams are usually required if the Social Security Administration does not feel there’s enough evidence in your medical records to make a determination about your case.
While the findings from the examination will be taken into account as your claim moves forward, what happens at the exam will not automatically make or break a case.
Attendance at these examinations is mandatory, and failing to attend one can result in an unfavorable decision in your case. However, providers are typically willing to reschedule them if you have some sort of emergency.
Unfortunately, these examinations, particularly the physical ones, are often very brief, sometimes only lasting 10-15 minutes.
Because of this, it’s important to have some idea of what you want to tell the provider before the exam. Making a list of your current diagnoses, symptoms, and medications may be helpful in answering questions at the exam.