Mental Exam Evaluation in Social Security Disability

If you’re filing for Social Security disability (SSD) or SSI benefits based on depression, you should take every measure possible to back your claim with strong medical evidence. This is true if even if you list depression as a main factor or a secondary symptom of a wider ailment (such as depression due to chronic fatigue syndrome or chronic back pain). You should take a mental exam.

Deciding Which Disability You Have

The defining symptoms of every mental illness are listed comprehensively in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association. This guide is used by mental health professionals to diagnose conditions.

It’s hard to learn what illness may be causing your symptoms. But taking the time and attempting to find an accurate diagnosis will help determine the right treatment.

Insufficient Medical Records

Without recent medical documents from an experienced mental health provider (a psychiatrist or psychologist) to affirm a continuous state of clinical depression, the disability claims examiner or administrative law judge (ALJ) trying to evaluate that your claim will have you undergo a consultative examination (CE) to ascertain your current mental condition.

Consultative Assessment for Depression

Social Security will send a person to a psychologist who will provide a complete psychiatric and psychological profile of the claimant. If you claim depression but have no history of treatment for such, you will be required to undergo a mental status examination, which is less in depth as a full profile. The mental status exam will provide an estimate on the claims examiner having a summary of your present mental states, such as observations regarding demeanor, capacity, memory, endurance, the ability to concentrate, and language comprehension.

But a mental consultative exam can be of help to your case when you’ve been treated for depression before, and your examination affirms what your records indicate.

It is uncommon that a mental status examination will provide a claimant enough evidence to meet the requirements for disability benefits. However, just like all tests scheduled by Social Security, you don’t have a choice but to participate. Without medical recent proof, your situation won’t improve and your claim will be denied if you do not undergo the exam.

What to Expect During the Mental Exam

A mental exam is different from consultative exams. A physical CE can last no more than 15 minutes. In several cases, claimants who have gone to CEOs have said that the physician performing the CE was condescending or rude.

Emotional examinations, on the other hand, require the psychiatrist or the psychologist to be curt. Why? Because one’s demeanor can affect the psychological condition of the individual being examined. This isn’t to say that rudeness doesn’t occur, but it happens infrequently.

Mental exam goes one of two ways. SSA exams may test your IQ, and they may also test your cognitive status. Psychiatric examinations are given by psychiatrist and mental exam are usually given by psychologists with PhDs.

Additionally, regarding examinations, the examining doctor may not be a specialist for your condition. It’s not unusual for claimants who have degenerative spine requirements to report that a gynecologist analyzed them. If it comes to assessments, the specialist will be a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.

Establish a Mental Health History

Because it is unlikely that a consultative exam will provide evidence to support an investigation of depression, if you intend to file for disability based on depression, you need to ascertain to find a psychologist who will offer record and monthly continuing treatment to strengthen your claim.

Be aware that licensed psychologists, even people that are Ph.D. holders, aren’t physicians, while psychiatrists are doctors. While the two are “acceptable medical sources,” a few ALJs (administrative law judges) prefer the opinions of psychiatrists compared to other mental health professionals. Additionally, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. And it’s crucial to take prescription drugs for depression as prescribed by your doctor because failing such may lead to the denial of disability benefits.

Social Security Status Examination

If you’re currently applying for Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits for a physical handicap, and there’s an indication in the application that you have depression, Social Security may ask that you undergo mental status exam or an MSE. This may be the case even if you do not allege the condition. Disability examiners for Social Security (much more so than a handicap judge) are expected to research “possible” psychological impairments in any case, and if there’s any indication–even the smallest sign—that mental impairment exists, you will be required to undergo an MSE.

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