The Social Security Administration scheduled me for a consultative exam. What is it, and do I have to go?
If you are an Indiana resident who has filed a claim for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may schedule you for a consultative exam. As a disability attorney in Indianapolis, I get many calls from my clients asking about the consultative exam. The consultative examination is a physical or mental exam performed by a medical source at the SSA's request and expense. As the SSA reviews your claim, they want as much information as possible about your medical conditions in order to make a decision. The medical evidence may be insufficient to determine if you are disabled. In some cases, claimant's physicians do not furnish the required medical records. The SSA will send you a letter with information such as date, time and location of the exam. It is very important that the SSA has your correct mailing address so that you get this information as soon as possible.
The exam itself will likely be performed by a medical professional you have never seen before. You can expect the exam to take between 20 and 60 minutes. I have heard people complain that their consultative examinations were very short, or the doctor did not address all of their impairments, or the doctor was rude and did not seem to take them seriously. The consultative doctors are supposed to evaluate your physical or mental abilities; they are not entering into a treatment relationship with you. While the doctors are paid by the SSA for their time, they are supposed to give an unbiased opinion. Therefore, when you go to your appointment, make sure you bring up all of your impairments to the doctor. Answer all of the doctor's questions truthfully and completely. Remember, too, that the doctor is not just listening to your answers to those questions; he or she is also observing your behavior, speech, and movement and will include those observations in the final report to the SSA.
Many of my clients call me because they are concerned about going to the consultative examination. They say it is difficult to get transportation, or they are just plain worried about what will happen at the exam. Some clients tell me that in their mental state, they don't know if they can handle that sort of stress. In my experience, it is very important that claimants comply with any and all SSA requests. You should make every effort to get to your exam. Failure to show up for your appointment can have a very negative effect on your claim. Your claim could be denied based on incomplete medical evidence. After all this time waiting on a decision, you don't want it denied because you didn't make it to the exam. The whole process can be frustrating and intimidating. Remember, though, that as important as it is to attend the consultative examinations, they are still only one part of all of the evidence the SSA must consider in deciding your claim. Even if you think your consultative examination went badly, it cannot all by itself ruin your chances of being found disabled. The SSA will also consider your treating doctors' opinions, the results of objective medical tests, and the effects of your impairments on your daily functioning.
As a disability lawyer in Indiana, my goal is to provide the best advice and representation possible as you navigate the Social Security disability application process. Contact my office if you have questions about the consultative examination or any other aspect of your Social Security disability appeal.