The Social Security Consultative Examination: Some Tips

When you apply for Social Security Disability, you may be asked to attend a "consultative examination." This article explains what the consultative examination is, and how to best approach your examination.

When the State DDS evaluate your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, the evaluator may determine that you should be examined by a physician to determine the nature and extent of your disability. If so, you will be scheduled for a "consultative examination."

In our experience, Social Security sends many of our clients to the same examiners. This is probably due to the fact that only so many physicians offer to perform these examinations in certain parts of Oregon and Washington. These doctors perform and examination, and then provided opinion on whether and how much your condition interferes with your ability to do work activity. Many of these physicians take a conservative approach, and some rarely find that a Social Security Disability applicant has significant limitations. Nonetheless, there are some things you can do to limit any negative impact that a consultative examination report may have on your Social Security Disability application.

When you go to a physical examination with a medical doctor, you should assume that the medical doctor has some of your medical records or some idea about your medical history. If you are asked questions, be sure to answer the questions honestly. The biggest mistake somebody can make is to guess an answer. If you "guess" the answer to a question, and you are incorrect, the physician may conclude that you are being less than honest in your response.

Give your best effort. I will say this many times. You should also be aware that the physician will observe you walking into the waiting room, walking into the examining room, and getting on and off the examination table. If your physical abilities or symptoms suddenly change after you have entered the examination room, that could be a problem because the physician may doubt the validity of any examination results.  This is why it is critical that you give your best effort during the consultative examination.

Another reason you should give your best effort is because the medical doctors have ways of "cross testing." This means that one measurement will be taken during one part of the exam, and then without you knowing it, the same measurement will be taken later on in the examination. If there is a drastic inconsistency  between the first and second measurement, the physician will doubt the validity of test results.

Many of the consultative physicians who perform these examinations will almost never find a Social Security disability applicant severely limited. You should assume that this will be the case for you. However, if you give good effort, and an honest history, you are limiting the damaging effect of this consultative examination report.

Psychological consultative examinations usually take quite a bit longer, because the examining psychologist will want to get a history (your story) in order to come up with a diagnosis. Obviously, it is a good idea to show up on time, and again, give your best effort and honest response to all the questions. You should assume that the examiner will have access to other medical records, and if there are any significant inconsistencies, that could spell trouble.

In some psychological examinations, you will be asked to perform a battery of tests. This can be tiring, but again, you should do your very best (we cannot say it enough).  Although the consultative examiner may interpret test results against you, we will often run those test results by the treating mental health provider to rebut the conclusions of the consultative examiner.

If you are in the midst of a Social Security Disability appeal, and have questions, call us at 503-325-8600. We have handled literally hundreds of claims over the years, and can share our experience so you know where you stand with your claim.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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