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Social Security Consultative Examiners vs. Your Treating Sources

When you apply for social security disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may arrange an appointment with a Consultative Examiner (CE). A consultative examiner is a physician, a licensed psychologist or a psychiatrist who has a contract with SSA to perform a medical or mental examination of you. These physicians, psychologists, and, on rare occasions, psychiatrists will interview, examine, and write a report about your physical and/or mental impairments. The consultative examiner may take x-rays, perform an eye exam or breathing test called a spirometry, administer IQ testing, physically examine you or ask you questions. SSA may send the consultative examiner medical records or your daily living questionnaires from your file.

Remember this doctor is NOT going to become your treating physician. You will see this doctor only once. The consultative examiner will write a report detailing what you said and what findings or signs he or she observed. As far as the psychological consultative evaluation, a student, who is working with a licensed psychologist, might conduct the IQ testing. Be sure to note how long the psychological evaluation lasts, since some of these consultative psychological examiners bill SSA 3 hours to perform the psychological evaluation but may spend less than an hour with you.

It is important to note that whatever you tell the consultative examiner may be written in the report including your history of substance abuse. You may be asked about your medical history, daily activities, side effects of medications, hospitalizations, and symptoms. Talk about your pain, depression, surgeries, change in daily routine, and frequency of doctor visits. If you have a friend or family member who can discuss your psychological limitations, take him/her with you, as a third party is supposed to be interviewed by the consultative psychologist. However, this usually does not occur if a physical evaluation is scheduled.

Important tips for CE appointments

• Take copies of important medical records, although there is no guarantee that the consultative examiner will accept information that was not sent by SSA
• Take your medication or a medication list
• Take a witness-family member or friend for a psychological evaluation
• Tell the consultative examiner about ALL of your symptoms
• If you use a cane, walker, crutches, breathing machine, TENS unit, knee or hand brace, you should take them to your appointment

If Social Security schedules a CE appointment in your case, make sure you show up and are on time. It is important to attend any CE appointment that is scheduled, because at the initial and reconsideration levels, your case can be denied for failure to attend. At the hearing level, the Administrative Law Judge may find you are uncooperative if you did not attend a consultative evaluation.

The government has to pay for the consultative evaluation, so you pay nothing. If your claim was denied in the past and you are scheduled with the same consultative examiner again, SSA has to reschedule the physical or psychological evaluation with a different consultative examiner. If you are scheduled for an appointment that is too far from where you live, the consultative evaluation has to be rescheduled with another consultative examiner, who is closer.

Going to this appointment scheduled by SSA is NOT enough to win your claim. You must regularly go to your own physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist. Having your own treating source, who knows your limitations, is vital to establishing that you are disabled. SSA wants to see a steady, longitudinal history of medical records including but not limited to hospitalizations, office visits, counseling sessions, laboratory findings, therapy notes, and tests.

If you need assistance with your social security disability claim, please contact the Law Office of Kathleen Flynn, LLC at 404-479-4431 or visit our website at