It is very standard for your disability officer to schedule a “consultative examination” for you in the Initial or Reconsideration stages of your disability claim. Social Security may decide that they do not have enough medical information about your physical or mental health from your medical records in order for them to make a proper medical determination in your disability claim. When this happens, Social Security may contract a medical professional to perform an independent examination. Although the Social Security Administration is paying the medical professional’s fee to perform the examination, that person IS NOT an employee of the Social Security Administration.
You should arrive at your examination with a photo ID at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. If you have any medical imaging (e.g. x-ray films, MRI imaging discs) you can take this with you to the appointment as well for the physician to review, but otherwise you do not need to take any medical records with you unless you have been specifically asked to provide them.
The most important thing to keep in mind attending the exam is to try your best to cooperate with the examining physician and to be honest. Do not attempt to minimalize or exaggerate your symptoms. Answer all questions as accurately and in as much detail as you can. Avoid using absolute statements such as “always” or “never” and instead try to give examples or count how often (e.g. how many days a month) you experience your worst and best symptoms.
When describing pain in your body, think about: where exactly in your body is the pain? Does your pain ever move/spread throughout your body? How many days out of a typical a week or month do you experience the pain? If your pain levels ever vary in intensity, what kinds of activities will make it better or worse? What kind of specific things are you limited from doing because of your pain? How does your pain affect your ability to do other things such as thinking, sleeping, or concentrating?
When answering questions on questionnaire forms or speaking with doctors, it is always best to give detailed answers and to give examples. Notice how different the following statements are:
“I have a bad back. My back hurts all the time and I can never do anything because of it. I have pain medicine the doctor gave me but it doesn’t do anything.”
While this statement may be true, it does not give the doctor a lot of information.
Now read this:
“I have constant pain in my lower back, but it sometimes will move into my upper back in between my shoulders if I have to use my hands or arms a lot. It can also move into my hips and down my left leg if I have to be on my feet or walk a lot. I always have some difficulty lifting more than 30 pounds, pushing the lawnmower, or riding in a car for more than a few hours, but on days when I have the worse stiffness in my back I am not able to do these things at all. I do always have back pain but some days are worse than others -- especially if I have a day when I do a lot of chores or if I am really active. When my pain gets really bad I try to change positions or lie down for a few hours or sometimes take a pain pill. When my back pain is at its worst it keeps me from being able to sleep and I have a difficult time concentrating and feel irritable. On those days I have to take a sleeping pill or have to sleep in a recliner chair to keep my legs propped up and keep me from rolling too much.”
The second story gives a lot more information about what types of things effect your pain and how your pain affects your ability to go about your daily life. This much detail gives the doctor and Social Security real life examples of what you’re dealing with on a daily basis.
After your examination, the medical professional will write up a report and send that to your disability examiner. That person will use the report, along with the other medical records in your file and any other questionnaires you have already completed to make a decision in your claim.