What Happens During and After a Physical Exam for Social Security Disability or SSI?

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I've been scheduled for a consultative examination with a Social Security doctor. (I applied for disability two months ago.) Why are they sending me to a doctor, and what will happen at the exam?


Consultative examinations are requested by Social Security disability claims examiners when the information provided by a disability claimant's own treating doctors is inadequate for determining if the claimant is disabled. While most disability examiners will first contact an individual's treating physician for clarification on an issue or additional information, there are cases in which this may be impossible, or there are times when a claimant has had very little medical treatment or all of their medical information is considered outdated for the purposes of the disability determination.

What Happens at the Exam? What happens at a physical exam for Social Security disability or SSI? A complete consultative physical exam involves all of the elements of a routine physical examination, but may be much shorter. For instance, your blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and other routine facets of a standard physical examination will be checked. Alternatively, the physician will just evaluate the part of your body that is impaired and/or perform tests requested by the claims examiner, such as an exercise stress test.

What Happens After the Exam? After the examination, the consultative physician will complete a written report that will include the claimant's main medical complaint, a detailed synopsis of the individual's major complaint or complaints, a report of the positive and negative findings based upon the history, exam, and laboratory findings that were found during the course of the examination, and a diagnosis and prognosis for the claimant. The doctor may also note things like your appearance, your punctuality, and whether you were giving your best effort at the exam or seemed to be exaggerating your symptoms.

Typically, the consultative physician will also make a statement with regard to what a claimant is capable of doing in spite of their impairment—that is, an a opinion as to the claimant's ability to perform work related activities such as lifting, carrying, standing, walking, handling things, hearing, speaking, and so on.

Learn more about consultative medical exams.

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