If you have a mental impairment of some kind, or even if you don't allege a mental illness on an application for disability but your records make mention of "depression," "anxiety," or "memory loss," there is a possibility that you will be sent for a mental consultative examination. Most often, an exam of this type is requested if a claimant has either never been treated for a specific condition or has not been treated in quite some time for the condition (more than three months).
Mental consultative exams are scheduled by disability claims examiners or disability judges (depending on the level your claim is at in the system) for the purpose of gaining additional information about your condition. The exams are conducted by independent doctors and psychologists who do not work for the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Claimants who are sent to mental exams may be sent to either a psychiatric examination, a mental status exam, or a full psychological exam (basically, an IQ test). (Learn about the difference between a mental status exam and a psychiatric consultative exam.)
Regardless of the type of exam conducted, a claimant should give their best effort during the examination. The reason for this is simple. Any indication expressed by the psychiatrist or psychologist) that a claimant who has been tested has "given less than their best effort" could invalidate the results of the exam. This is particularly true in the case of IQ testing. In situations such as this, an applicant for Social Security disability may be asked to go to a second exam if sufficient doubt is cast on the results of the first exam.
In addition to invalidating one's testing results, giving less than one's best effort during testing can throw doubt upon an entire case in the eyes of a claims examiner or judge at a disability hearing.
What does "giving less than one's best effort" actually mean? It simply means not exerting effort to answer questions correctly, or worse, giving deliberately incorrect answers for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a claim. For example, you could answer a questionnaire in a way that makes you seem depressed or unstable when you're not.
Do some claimants actually engage in this type of behavior? Yes, as a disability examiner, I recall a case in which an individual tried to lower his tested IQ score by giving nonsensical answers to questions. The result? After three separate IQ testings, his disability claim was denied.
Written by: Tim Moore, former disability claims examiner for Social Security