How To Hang with the Social Security Doctor

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Art: Robin Mead 

The Consultative Exams (CE) is an appointment with a Social Security doctor. A CE can be a mental exam or a physical exam.

If Social Security would like you to go to a CE, they will write you a letter and tell you when and where to go.

If you get sent to CE, do not worry. Many people are sent to CEs and it does not mean anything special about your case when this happens.

These exams most often happen a few months after you first apply. Sometimes they also happen when people who are already on disability come up for a review. Occasionally they happen at other times. You may be sent to a physical exam or a mental exam or both.

Sometimes CE exams make a difference, but in other cases, the results of CE exams have little or no affect on the outcomes of applications.

The Game of Low Expectations

It may be helpful to keep in mind that the CE doctor is just there to give you a small exam and write down the results.

They have no power to decide your case, they will not treat you or help you with your condition, and it is rare that they will find anything new that helps your claim.

CE doctors are not Social Security employees. They are just regular doctors making a few extra bucks performing these exams on the side. It will make no difference to them if your application is approved or not. They will never know what happens and never hear about you again.

Some CE doctors are very nice, but some people report that their CE doctor was rude or rushed. Keep your expectations low, and you won’t be disappointed.

Before the Exam

🌺 Here are some things you can do to help your visit go more smoothly: How to Prep for the CE

🌺 If you are homebound or unable to travel to the CE for medical reasons, Social Security has a policy that they should provide the CE in your home. How to Request the Social Security Doctor Come to Your House

🌺 You have the right to request your own doctor perform the exam. It is not easy to get this approved, but if you are willing to advocate for yourself, it may be possible: How To Request that Your Own Doctor Perform the Consultative Exam

When You Arrive

🌺 There is a good chance someone will observe or ask you how you got there, how far you traveled, if you needed someone to accompany you, and if you were able to drive a car.

🌺 They may also note other things, such as your ability to walk, stand, sit, hold a conversation, fill out a form, etc.

🌺 They may note how you behave in the parking lot, waiting room, and doctor’s office.

The Exam

You may be sent to a Physical CE or Mental CE or both. The letter you get should tell you what kind of exam you are going to. Here’s what happens during the exam:

🌺 What Happens at a Physical Exam with the Social Security Doctor?

🌺 What Happens at a Mental Exam with the Social Security Doctor?

Tip: Don’t expect the doctor to know anything about you or your history. They may or may not have been sent some of your medical records. If they were sent anything, it is usually a small selection, and the doctor may or may not have reviewed them.

Sleepy Girl Tips for a Great CE Exam

🌺 If you are having a hard day, don’t hide it. Try not to be shy or embarrassed about letting the doctor see how bad things are for you. Remember: It’s half an hour of your life. You will never see this person again. How to Stop Hiding From Your Doctor

🌺 It is usually recommended to just be yourself. If someone looks or acts one way at their regular doctor, and then a totally different way at the Social Security doctor, this may cause problems.

🌺 Some doctors make notes about the patient’s appearance and behavior.   Examples of things doctors observe and write about.

After the Exam

🌺 If you are applying for disability, you may find it helpful to read your CE report. Some states will automatically send you a form asking if you would like a copy of the report sent to your doctor.

🌺 You can also get a copy of the report (plus everything else in your file) by requesting a copy of your case file. This can be done during any appeal stage (after you have been denied at least once). Here’s how to request your file and check your records.

Important

🌺 If you brought any medical records and gave them to the doctor. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ANYONE AT SOCIAL SECURITY WILL EVER SEE THEM. It is fine to bring some records with you to the doctor, but this is not the right way to submit records to the person who makes the decision.

🌺 It is a very very good idea to stay in touch with the person who is deciding your case and find out exactly what records they do and don’t have. Learn more about How to Stay In Touch with Your Disability Examiner

Read More

There are lots of good articles floating around the internet about these CE exams, and you can find some here:

🌺 Nine Tips for Consultative Exams

🌺 Physical Exams

🌺 Mental Exams

🌺 Video of a mental status exam. Your exam may be different than this.

🌺 Complete Guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability


Updated: January 2020. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

13 thoughts on “How To Hang with the Social Security Doctor”

  1. I was sent to the SS mental evaluation. He stated I was NOT employable and the judge threw out his opinion saying it means nothing. How can a judge throw out a graduate of medical school when that judge goes against medical recommendations??

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  2. Hi,
    I saw the medical doctor they sent me to. I was just notified from the disability medical determination office that their doctors have given their recommendations and it’s now off her desk and being sent to the Social Security Administration for final decision. I asked what the recommendation was and she couldn’t tell me. The reason I even spoke with her is because she called me to inform me that my blood pressure was relatively high at my CE exam and that she was sending me a letter to go to my local health department. I am a human trafficking survivor. I have been under a psychiatrist care for over three years. I have CPTSD, ADD, Panic attack disorder and anxiety disorder with depression. I also have many physical issues throughout my body. I haven’t had insurance to see doctors regularly for my physical issues. My psychiatrist sent them my records on Feb 10th and they didn’t make me see a psychiatrist of theirs. Since they have made their recommendation I guess those records were sufficient. My question is how long does the process take now that my records and recommendation are being sent back to SSA? Also what do my chances look like?

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  3. My psychiatrist told me that they have to know you at your very, very worst and though we try to hide that by habit, and it can be difficult to let a stranger see that and judge you, you have to let them see it and know it. Good advice. It was hard to do.

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  4. I found your WordPress website/blog back last year when I was working on reapplying for SSDI/SSI (after an unsuccessful first attempt back in 2013). I have learned so much about the disability process and all of the information helped me put together all of my records, letters, timeline, etc.

    I would have been lost (once again) without your info. I officially applied (for the 2nd time) in July 2018. As of today, January 2, 2019, I am still in the initial step, as they are processing my medical portion.

    Today was also my appointment with the SSA recommended Psychologist. I think my appointment went as well as could be expected. I don’t do very well with “new people”, so my anxiety had me shaking, stuttering and I was quite nauseous. The Doctor was very kind and patient with me though, so I am very thankful for that. (I have heard horror stories of others who had met with rude Doctors.)

    The majority of my disability is based on my Mental Health. I suffer from the following: Mental Health Disorder, Bipolar/Bipolar Depression, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Insomnia, Night Terrors ——— Scoliosis, Intractable Migraines, Chronic Fatigue, Hyperlipidemia, PCOS, Cough, Multiple Allergies, Environmental Allergies, Asthma, Dyspnea, GERD, Palpitations, Cervicalgia and Infertility. —

    I am hopeful that the Doctor from today wrote his report in my favor. He told me that I should hear back from SSA within the next 4 weeks. If that’s the case then the initial stage of the process for me will have taken 7 months. I can only hope and pray that I get approved.

    Anyway, thank you so much for sharing such valuable information. You are helping so many of us that were definitely in desperate need for help. I am very grateful.

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  5. In my mental consultative exam I was told to say as many words as I could starting with F in the period of 60 seconds. I was also asked 5 words then had to remember them later on. When he asked me what the 5 words were, I could only remember 2 of them. And he gave me a weird look and then gave me clues to what the rest of the words were. I didnt know they were supposed to help you with your answers. I’m a little aggrivated because I got the vibe he thought I was pretending to NOT know the words. But I truly couldn’t remember.

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  6. Hi there, thank you so much for all this wonderful information it’s been very helpful to me! I went to go get a mental evaluation this morning for my SSI claim and the psychologist was very nice and the actual appointment was less than 30 minutes but I don’t understand why she told me she would send the paperwork to social security in 2 weeks? Is this a good or bad thing or standard procedure?

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  7. I also was fortunate enough to have my supervisor willing to write a letter regarding what he observed at work that made him agree with me that I needed to go on disability. He stated that I went from being a great employee to one who was barely getting by, documented functional impairments, mental status impairments, and how those affected my job. Lawyer and Vocational Services experts both put a lot of weight on that letter.

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