How to Prepare for a Social Security Disability Mental Exam

Img blog How to Prepare for a Social Security Disability Mental Exam

Understanding the Exam and Your Rights

During the disability process, the Social Security Administration may schedule a Consultative Examination. A consultative examination is conducted by a provider that SSA contracts with. Consultative Examinations are not required with every application but do occur in a substantial number of cases. If your disability claim involves any mental health impairments, the Social Security Administration may schedule a Mental Exam to assess your mental health impairments and their impact on your ability to work.

If an examination is scheduled, you may ask for it to be rescheduled to a different time or location. But know that this may cause a delay in your case. You may also refuse to attend the exam. But this may affect the processing of your claim. During the exam, your rights include honesty, respect, the ability to ask for clarification, and expecting professional conduct.

Preparing for the Examination

  • Gather Necessary Documents

    Your preparation for a mental consultative examination should begin before the date of the exam. You should review your treatment history and come prepared with the medical records and medications related to your mental health. This may include any relevant letters of support from your mental health professionals.

  • Review the Disability Criteria

    During the mental examination, the consultative examiner may ask you for a history of your mental health condition. You should come ready with the reasons for which your mental health condition affects your ability to work. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the Social Security Administration’s criteria for mental health disabilities. Then, you can understand how your condition may meet these criteria.

  • Prepare to Discuss Symptoms

    At the examination, be ready to describe your mental health symptoms, how they affect your daily life and any limitations they impose. This may include problems with concentration, memory, and attention. Your symptoms may also affect your ability to be around the public or interact with others. Provide specific examples that illustrate the severity of your condition.

  • Be Honest and Open

    It is important that you be open and honest with the examiner.  Answer questions truthfully and openly during the examination. Avoid downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms.

  • Ask Questions

    At the examination, if you are confused about the questions the examiner asks or the process of the examination, don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications. During the exam, if the examiner asks you a question that you do not understand, ask for clarification rather than try to guess an answer. After the exam, you seek feedback on what to expect after the examination.

What to Expect During the Exam?

  • Interview

    During a mental consultative exam, the examiner will ask about your medical history, your mental health symptoms, and your daily activities. You may begin the exam by explaining why your symptoms preclude your ability to do any full-time work. You may also be asked if you can do various activities of daily living such as shopping for groceries or driving. It will be important for you to give examples with an emphasis on your limitations. The examiner may also ask about your family history, education history, drug or alcohol use, and any legal history.

  • Examination

    After the interview is complete, you may undergo a mental status examination. Various tests will be done to test your memory, concentration, insight, and judgment. This testing is usually brief. Some possible questions you may get asked are:

    • Ø Who is the current US president?
    • Ø Can you spell the word “world” forward and backward?
    • Ø How are a horse and tiger alike and how are they different?
    • Ø What would you do if a child came up to you in a store saying he was lost?
  • Observation

    The examiner may observe your behavior, mannerisms, and interactions during the exam to assess your functioning. They may also note your thought process, thought content, and your speech patterns.

  • Cognitive Testing

    In some cases, SSA may want to do further testing to assess your cognitive functioning. This will be done in addition to the mental status examination. The examiner may administer a mental status examination, a questionnaire used in clinical settings to measure a cognitive impairment. The examiner may also administer an intelligence test to assess your verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, processing speed, and Full-Scale IQ.

After the Exam: What's Next?

After the examination, the examiner will note the results of the testing administered and write a report. The examiner will issue an opinion that explains your limitations and what you can still do despite your disability.

  • Stay Informed

    After the examination is done, be on the lookout for updates from SSA. They may send out another request for information. If another request is made, make sure to respond timely. SSA may also issue a decision. You should be ready to review the decision and file an appeal if necessary.

  • Follow-Up with Your Healthcare Providers

    Once the examination is complete and the report is issued, SSA will send the results of the report to your doctor, at your request. You may contact your healthcare provider to discuss the results of the exam and any additional documentation needed for your disability claim.

  • Review the Exam Report

    Once you have the examination results, carefully review the exam report to ensure accuracy and consistency with your medical history and symptoms. If there is an inconsistency in the report or it does not reflect what occurred at the exam, you may want to note that down for future use in your case if necessary.  

  • Seek Legal Advice

    Consider consulting with a Social Security disability attorney to understand your rights and options regarding the exam results and disability claim. If an unfavorable report is issued and your claim is denied, you can contact an attorney to discuss your options.

  • Maintain Communication

    During the disability process, maintain open communication with both your healthcare providers and the Social Security Administration throughout the claims process.


At the consultative examination, you will be asked for a history of your disability. This may include an educational and vocational history and a medical or mental health history. You may also be asked about your daily functioning and the limitations of your activities of daily living.

After the examination is complete, it may take up to a month for the examiner to issue the report. Once the report is issued, it may take another month for SSA to review the results and issue a decision. SSA is not bound by any deadlines so it may take longer to receive the decision.

It is important to bring a form of identification to your mental examination. You may also want to bring a list of your current medications and medical record providers and any medical record reports.

If you disagree with the results of the mental examination and an unfavorable report is issued, you may file an appeal. During the appeal process, you can provide additional reports and examinations from your own medical providers that demonstrate your disability.

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