When considering your claim for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration generally has a very broad and very complex situation to examine. The medical facts, the financial records, the history of past work – basically every relevant detail over several years of your life – need to be collected and organized in a way that ensures your Social Security disability benefits are awarded in the most timely and proper fashion. Our disability attorneys can assist you in managing this great volume of information, but many times Social Security will need to contact you for various pieces of information to get a better idea of your claim.
One of the most common ways that SSA acquires information about your disability case is to request that you see a consultative examiner, or a CE. CEs are independent medical professionals who are hired by SSA to conduct independent, neutral reviews of claimants’ medical issues and their abilities in terms of work. Seeing a consultative examiner is routine in almost every application for disability benefits. Let’s look at some of the different types of consultative examinations you may encounter during your appeal for disability benefits, and how you can best coordinate with our disability law firm to ensure your case goes as smoothly as possible.
Why am I seeing a consultative examiner?
Many clients that we speak with are confused as to the need for a consultative examiner. First of all, it is important to remember that the purpose of a CE appointment is not to treat any of your conditions. CE doctors cannot provide recommendations on how to alleviate pain or how to cure illnesses. Rather, a CE is part of SSA’s effort to ensure that they have as much information on your claim as possible. A CE’s testimony provides SSA with a sort-of “second opinion” so that they can more objectively review your symptoms.
Another source of confusion among many claimants is why SSA sends applicants for SSI or SSDI benefits to a psychiatric CE when their problems are purely physical. These appointments are made for two very important reasons: development of your record, and determining the method of payment. The Social Security laws codified in the Code of Federal Regulations require the Social Security Commissioner to “develop” your record as much as possible. If your claim is based solely on physical impairments, then often no record of any mental health treatment will exist. SSA therefore develops your record and satisfies this requirement by asking you to see a psychiatric CE.
In addition, Social Security must determine if, upon the successful award of your disability benefits, you will be able to manage those benefits appropriately. As stated above, most physical claims have little to no evidence of any mental health issues. If those exist and are undiagnosed, Social Security is required to find out about them to make sure you can handle your benefits appropriately.
Seeing a CE on your disability benefits claim can be understandably stressful. It can make you feel as if SSA is distrustful of your claim, or is singling you out for a particular issue. It is important to remember that these are routine steps taken in all claims for Social Security disability benefits.
Our Social Security law office is always available to answer any questions you may have about your claim, and we are willing to put our knowledge to good use to help you if you are denied on a disability claim.