Can a Social Security Doctor Be Any Help If He Only Sees You a Few Minutes?

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Question

I just went to a doctor's exam scheduled by Social Security for my disability application. The doctor examined me for about five minutes and lifted each of my legs. He wasn't interested in anything I told him about how my back pain limited me. How can this doctor give Social Security an opinion about whether I'm disabled?

Answer

Often, a claims examiner will send you to a consultative exam just to have a symptom checked or a test done, such as a straight-leg test, and won't request that the doctor do a full physical on you. That is why many consultative exams only last five to ten minutes.

To understand why some consultative exams can be so short, you need to understand why disability claims examiners send claimants to consultative medical exams. The most common reason for DDS (Disability Determination Services) to send you to a consultative exam (CE) is that they don't think you are disabled but they need recent medical evidence (not older than 30 or 60 days) in order to close your case (and deny you disability benefits). 

If you get sent to a CE, it usually means that you haven't been treated recently, in terms of when the DDS claims examiner is actually looking at the case.  For example, when the examiner reviews your file, there should be medical evidence in the file that's less than 60 days old.

Keep in mind this fact: when you go to a CE, or consultative examyou are NOT going to a Social Security doctor. You are going to a private physician who has contracted to perform a brief medical exam. The doctors who do consultative exams are usually those who are trying to make a little money on the side for not much work. (Read about whether these consulting doctors are trustworthy.)

Updated by: , J.D.

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