If you've applied for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA), the claims examiner might require you to have a "consultative exam" (CE). These physical or mental health exams are fairly common when your file doesn't contain recent health records (from the last 90 days). Claims examiners use the results of CEs to decide both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claims and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims.
If your Social Security disability application is based on a mental health impairment or your application file contains information (like doctor's notes) about a mental health issue, you might be required to have a disability mental health exam. Social Security would arrange the appointment and pay for the mental exam—whether you're sent to your doctor for the exam or someone else.
If you expect to have a disability mental exam, there are some steps you can take to prepare for it. The first thing you should do is learn what to expect. Here's how the process works, the information you'll be asked to provide, and some tips for passing an SSI or SSDI mental health evaluation.
The type of test(s) or evaluation(s) you'll face during a mental health exam will depend on your individual case. The Social Security claims examiner will request any tests and assessments needed to get a complete picture of your mental health and make a decision regarding disability benefits.
Depending on your mental health issues, you could face any of the four types of mental health CEs Social Security uses to evaluate disability claims based on mental health impairments, including:
(Learn more about each type of Social Security disability mental health exam.)
At a mental examination, you'll spend most of the appointment discussing your past and present situation with the psychiatrist or psychologist examining you. But the medical professional conducting a Social Security disability mental exam is required to verify your identity as part of the CE. So, there are a few things that you'll need to bring with you to the exam, including:
The goal of the examination is to fill in holes in your medical records and give the Social Security disability claims examiner an accurate impression of your mental health. To fill any gaps, the psychiatrist or psychologist conducting the exam will want to know the following information about you:
You probably already know this information, but it could be helpful to think about these areas before your mental exam to ensure you remember everything and to speed along the examination.
It's vital that you provide the psychiatrist or psychologist with an accurate account of your past and present medical history. You should write down important information and bring it with you to ensure you don't accidentally forget something. Your notes should include the following:
How you handle the Social Security mental exam can affect the outcome of your disability claim. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your exam and once you're there:
When Social Security requires you to have a mental health exam for your disability claim, you can be sure the results of the exam will have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Because of the exam's importance to your claim, you'll want to do everything you can to prepare for it.
Understanding how the Social Security disability mental evaluation process works is an important step. Getting your information together ahead of your appointment is another.
You might also consider talking with a disability lawyer before your mental health disability exam. A legal professional can help you prepare and ensure you don't forget to mention anything the examiner needs to know about you and how your mental health affects your ability to work.
Updated September 6, 2022