Is It a Good Sign When Social Security Disability Sends You to a Doctor?

Some Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) applicants are notified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they need to be examined by a doctor selected by the government. These letters cause anxiety and confusion among the SSD and SSI claimants. Working with a talented Social Security Disability lawyer is the best way to avoid becoming upset by unexpected developments or worrying about what happens next.

Is It a Good Sign When Social Security Disability Sends You to a Doctor?

The process is called a Consultative Examination (CE) and it is not a good or a bad sign as to whether your disability claim will be granted.

As an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer, Attorney Scott London wants every client to be fully informed about every stage of the SSD benefits application process. Here’s what you need to know if you are required to submit to an independent doctor’s exam.

Why Did You Get Sent to a Different Doctor?

There are several reasons why your case may require a visit with an independent physician.

Missing Medical Information

The Consultative Exam (CE) is usually ordered because some aspect of your condition is unclear to the agent who is handling your file at the Disability Determination Service. The medical records you submitted as part of your application might be missing a significant test result.

The criteria for determining if your condition meets the Social Security Disability standards may depend on medical tests or assessments not found in your records. To make a fully informed decision, the agent reviewing your application needs to have a qualified doctor perform the missing test or conduct the needed examination.

Being referred to an independent doctor for an exam because of missing records is less likely to happen if you hire a skilled SSDI lawyer like Scott London at to prepare your SSD benefits claim and advocate for its approval. As an experienced Social Security Disability professional, he ensures that only complete and thoroughly compiled applications get submitted in your case.

Important Tip: Make sure you actually need to have the independent exam before you go to the assigned doctor. Your letter from the SSA will state exactly what exam or test needs to be performed. Check to see if you had the test or the exam. Contact the SSA agent to alert them if you do have a missing record that the exam was already performed.

A Long Period Since Your Last Medical Exam

Another possible reason for a Consultative Exam by an independent doctor is a long lapse of time since your most recent medical examination. Some impairments can lead to prolonged disability but may improve over a few years. If an SSD benefits recipient has not been examined for a long while, the SSA may demand an updated assessment of the degree of remaining disability.

Who Is the Independent Doctor?

The doctor the SSA sends you to is not the government’s doctor. They are independent contractors whose credentials and qualifications earned them approval to examine Disability applicants. They are considered an “acceptable medical source.” The doctor will only conduct the examination specified in the SSA’s notice. The doctor is paid less than their usual fee for this work and they don’t spend more time than necessary conducting the required exam. The doctor is not responsible for the approval or denial of your SSD benefits.

How to Prepare for Your Consultative Exam (CE)

The doctor you see for your SSA Consultative Exam will almost certainly not have any previous history of treating you. At the end of the examination, the doctor completes a report detailing the exam, what observations they made, and any significant findings. They often include information about how your condition limits your activities. For example, they may include an opinion that you can sit for four hours but not more without pain. Or that you are unable to lift more than a particular weight.

1). Think About Your Answers in Advance: You may spend only a short time with the independent doctor during the exam. If you think through what your daily experience is with your impairment, you are more likely to include details you might otherwise forget to mention.

2). Bring Only Some Addition Records If You Have Them: If you have additional test results, x-ray reports, or MRI analyses, you can ask the doctor to review them. Don’t argue if they decline to look at them. They don’t want to accept a pile of disorganized records. They may accept the records if there are only 6 or 7 pages.

3). Be Honest — Don’t Exaggerate and Don’t Minimize Your Disability: Be as honest as possible when answering the doctor’s questions during the exam. Exaggerating your pain or your limitations can cause the doctor to doubt your claim’s legitimacy. On the other hand, being overly brave and understating the degree of your disability is equally damaging to your odds of winning your SSD benefits claim.