What should I do to get ready or bring to my Social Security Disability Consultative Exam?
Shortly after filing a claim for disability benefits, you may receive a correspondence from the Social Security Administration informing you of an appointment they have scheduled on your behalf known as a consultative exam. You may feel some apprehension upon receiving this notice. Don’t. You should view this exam as an opportunity to give an independent medical professional more information regarding your symptoms, as well as how your conditions affect you and your ability to accomplish tasks throughout the day.
Consultative exams are not performed by an employee of Social Security Administration, but rather an independent physician hired by them to perform an unbiased exam. While there are many types of exams that may be scheduled for you such as auditory, respiratory, visual, etc.; the most commonly scheduled exams are for internal medicine and mental status.
So, how do you go about preparing for the consultative exam?
- If you have any medical records, you should bring them. Remember, this is the first and likely only time this doctor will be seeing you. This doctor doesn’t know you or your conditions. The most helpful medical records will be reports and findings from objective studies such as MRI’s, EMG’s, blood tests (for conditions diagnosed through bloodwork, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Lyme’s), and any prescriptions. Objective findings carry the most weight with medical professionals and the Social Security Administration. For cases involving mental health, you may not have any medical records aside from your prescriptions for you to bring and that is okay.
- This raises my next point: Be prepared to discuss your story with them. Specifically, causes of the impairment and how it affects your daily living now. Your story applies to all types of impairments and all types of examinations.
- Provide them with a narrative. Don’t exaggerate, but similarly, don’t minimize.
- Tell them what your typical day is like and the challenges you may face on a regular basis. Think about the difficulties you encounter daily. Why are they difficult? Is it due to physical limitation? Is it due to anxiety? What is it that interferes with your daily functioning? Do you receive any assistance accomplishing your daily tasks or chores? Are you able to perform house chores? Why or why not? Tell them about self-care such as bathing and dressing. Tell them about social interactions if they are affected or limited by your impairments. If you can perform a certain activity, but with great difficulty or painful consequences, let them know about those difficulties and consequences. Let them know what a good day, a bad day, and what a typical day is like for you. Inform them of your treatment history as well. Who have you treated with in the past? What specialists have you seen? What procedures have been done? Whom do you treat with now? Have you been hospitalized? If you have, was there multiple admissions? Do you go to the emergency room frequently due to your conditions? Don’t fret over specific dates—ballpark time frames serve the purpose for most exams. You get the idea; this is about why you might be unable to be reliable or consistent in your abilities to accomplish even menial tasks. It is why you filed for disability in the first place.
You should be aware that when you arrive at a consultative exam, you might be observed before you even enter the office. Sometimes the examiner may watch a claimant exit their vehicle in the parking lot, walk to the entrance, etc. Additionally, keep in mind that this is not a feel-good exam. After the exam is completed, you may not feel that the examiner spent enough time with you to learn about your conditions. You may feel that you were rushed. Often, these exams are performed by physicians with many patients and they have limited time to spend with each. This is precisely why you should prepare and focus on the impairments that present you with the most limitations. Do not lose valuable time talking about conditions that are marginal or that don’t limit your ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Remember, this is your opportunity to help the examiner understand your conditions and how they affect you. So, tell them.
By Mark Davis