Preparing for the Social Security Disability Mental Exam

Preparing for the Social Security Disability Mental Exam

If you apply for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the basis of a mental health disorder, you may be required to undergo a mental exam. Since many people do not have a recorded medical history with respect to their mental health, an exam helps the Social Security Administration (SSA) appropriately gauge your condition and determine whether it is disabling enough to qualify you for disability benefits.

There are four kinds of mental health examinations that may be utilized in a given case: 1) psychiatric examination; 2) psychological examination; 3) memory scale examination; and 4) mental status examination. Psychiatric exams are usually scheduled for individuals suffering from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or psychosis.

Psychological exams are frequently ordered for claimants suffering from head injuries, organic brain disorder, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, or cognitive disorders. A standard IQ test will likely be administered in these kinds of evaluations and is designed to measure processing speed, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and verbal comprehension.

Memory scale examinations are used for individuals suffering from short-term memory loss, such as victims of stroke and traumatic brain injury, and claimants who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Lastly, a mental status exam is often used for applicants suffering from mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and bi-polar depression.

These examinations will be administered by your treating physician or psychiatrist/psychologist, but an independent practitioner may conduct your exam on behalf of (but not employed by) SSA under circumstances such as: 1) your treating physician chooses not to perform the exam; 2) your treating physician is not considered a productive source based on his/her prior experience with SSA; 3) you prefer an independent physician and have a valid reason to back up your request; or 4) there are inconsistencies in your medical records, and the source of those inconsistencies is your treating physician. Once SSA has decided you need to undergo one of the examinations, it will coordinate a time and place with a participating physician close to where you live.

To prepare for your examination, write some items down for the physician to make sure you do not forget them, including any treatments received and the results of those treatments, current medications you take, any previous hospitalizations, any previous diagnoses, and any criminal history you may have. Bring your Social Security claim number and identification with you to the exam.

You should anticipate questions regarding your medical history, social history, educational background, and work background. SSA will want to know what your impairments are and how they affect your everyday ability to work, what your relationships with friends and family are like and your ability to interact with others in your community, whether you had any difficulties in school, and any attempts you have made to return to work and what the results of those attempts were. You will be asked what your symptoms are that prevent you from working, including when they started and how they have progressed, and what a typical day looks like for you.

SSA will be better able to evaluate your condition if you provide answers that are accurate and honest. Once the examination is over, the physician who conducted it must provide a written report to SSA within 10 days regarding his/her medical opinion of the state of your health; the determination process for this stage of your application will take approximately 90-120 days from when you filed your claim.