What Is This Consultative Examination That Social Security Is Sending Me To?

In most cases, claimants for either Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are scheduled for Consultative Examinations by Social Security. Social Security may request that you go to an examination by a medical doctor for physical impairments and/or a psychologist for mental impairments.

In my experience, almost every client who has been denied on their initial application and at Reconsideration has been sent to a Consultative Examination in relation to the impairments that they are alleging. If a claimant is alleging both mental and physical impairments, then it is possible that Social Security will schedule both a mental and physical examination; or they may schedule one or the other.

The majority of the time these doctors are not helpful to the claimant's case (at least this is my opinion on physical examinations). But, it's in your best interests to attend these examinations. If Social Security schedules you for a Consultative Examination and you fail to attend then it's likely that your application for disability benefits will be denied. If you have to re-schedule the appointment, that can usually be done by contacting the claim's adjudicator in advance. However, I always suggest to my clients that they try their best to attend the examination when it is originally scheduled unless absolutely necessary to re-schedule.

If you confirm your attendance for the examination and then fail to show up for the appointment, Social Security is not obligated to re-schedule the appointment. Often, if you fail to appear and do not have a valid reason, Social Security will deny your application. If you fail to attend the examination, if the case goes to hearing, the judge is likely going to want to know what your reasons for failing to attend the examination are.

It has been my experience that the mental examinations are much more helpful and through than the physical examinations. Physical examinations, from what I have been told, seldom last longer than 10 minutes.


The Doctor Social Security Sent Me To Told Me I Was Disabled, Why Was I Denied?

From time to time a client tells me that they went to the Consultative Examination that Social Security requested that they go to and the doctor told them that they were disabled. Of course the client then is expecting the next correspondence from Social Security to be a Notice of Award. But, unfortunately that is not always the case.

I've had more than a few clients tell me that the doctor told them that they were disabled only for Social Security to turn around and deny them either at the initial decision or Reconsideration. Why does this happen? In my opinion it boils down to one of several possible reasons; either the doctor said one thing and wrote another thing in his report, the doctor may have said something which was misunderstood or the doctor did state that the claimant was disabled but Social Security - who is the ultimate decision maker - decided that the claimant did not meet the Social Security definition of disability.

The good news is that if the doctor at the Consultative Examination, whether it be a medical doctor or a psychiatrist, did include favorable evidence for you in their report that this may help you at the Social Security hearing.


If I Inherit Money Will That Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Very simple answer.

If you are collecting Social Security Disabilty benefits (SSD), then your monthly benefits will not be affected by any inheritance. Since SSD is based on your work history credits, you can collect SSD benefits as long as you are disabled, even if you are a multi-billionaire.

However, if you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) then your benefits most likely will be affected. Since SSI is a needs based program, not only must you meet the Social Security criteria for disability, you must also meet the financial requirements. Depending on the amount that you inherit, these assets may disqualify you because of the financial component of the program.


What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?

So you've applied for either Social Security Disability benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income and you've been denied at the Initial application, and possibly a second time at Reconsideration (if your state has this stage of the process). You've requested a hearing (likely about a year ago) and now you've been scheduled for a Social Security hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge.

Here are a few things to prepare you for what to expect at your hearing:
  • If you do not already have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, it's time to strongly consider getting one. If you have an experienced representative, they should be able to answer all of your questions; from what to wear to the hearing, to what type of questions to expect from the judge. Not to mention, they will hopefully present your case in an organized manner that shows the judge that you meet the Social Security definition of disability.
  • Unlike most other legal proceedings, Social Security's new rules prohibit claimants from knowing who the Administrative Law Judge is ahead of the hearing.
  • Social Security hearings are pretty informal, nothing like you're accustomed to seeing on Court TV or the news. Typically, the only people in the hearing room are the judge, a reporter who types what is being said, the claimant and if you are represented, your representative. It's also common for the Administrative Law Judge to request that a vocational expert and/or a medical expert testify at the hearing.
  • In my experience, most hearings last about 45 minutes to an hour. I've had hearings that have lasted much less and hearings that have lasted much longer. But, in general, if you are represented by an experienced representative or Social Security attorney, you should expect your hearing to last close to an hour. From my experience of sitting in Social Security waiting rooms, hearings where the claimant is unrepresented rarely last longer than 30 minutes.
  • The Administrative Law Judge rarely issues a decision the day of the hearing. This doesn't mean it never happens, but it's not common practice. So, don't go to the hearing expecting to have a final answer to whether or not your application for disability is being approved or denied. If you do not receive a bench decision (a decision the day of the hearing), you will have to wait to receive your written decision in the mail. The time frame to receive a decision varies by judge, some judges get their decisions sent out within a few weeks and unfortunately I've had judges that take up to three months to issue their decision.
  • The main purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to testify. The majority of the time spent in the hearing room is spent with the judge asking the claimant questions and if you are represented by someone, having your representative ask you questions to inform the judge of important details.

  • If you've been scheduled for a hearing, then read this article about common Social Security disability mistakes that are easily fixed.
If you are scheduled for a hearing then you likely have already waited at least eighteen months since the day you first applied for disability benefits. That's why I will repeat my suggestion that if you do not already have an experienced Social Security disability attorney, it's time to strongly consider getting one.


Is My Social Security Statement Available Online?

About two years ago Social Security stopped sending annual Social Security statements to those who are under the age of 60. In all honesty, it wasn't a bad idea since most people usually ignored these statements and treated them similar to the typical junk mail you would get each day.

However, your Social Security statement includes lots of useful information if you intend on filing for retirement or Social Security Disability benefits.

According to Social Security your online statement provides:
  • Estimates of the retirement and disability benefits you may receive;
  • Estimates of benefits your family may get when you receive Social Security or die;
  • A list of your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records;
  • The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid;
  • Information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare;
  • Things to consider for those age 55 and older who are thinking of retiring;
  • General information about Social Security for everyone;
  • The opportunity to apply online for retirement and disability benefits; and
  • A printable version of your Social Security Statement.
To get your Statement online, you must first create a my Social Security account. Once you have an account, you can view your Social Security Statement at any time.