Those who file for Short Term Disability or Social Security Disability with an alleged mental condition (physical and mental impairments listed on disability applications are classified as “allegations” until the examiner has decided the claim) are often sent for a mental consultative examination (CE).

Mental consults are like physical consultative exams in that they are used by disability examiners to help establish the claimant’s current medical state. Oftentimes, it is the case that those with mental disorders have received little if any medical treatment for their condition, so it’s difficult for a disability examiner to determine the nature and scope of the impairment and how it affects the claimant’s ability to work.

Before a disability examiner can make a decision on a claim, he has to have recent medical evidence; Social Security has defined “recent” as within the past three months. However, even if you have had medical treatment for a mental condition within this timeframe, the examiner can order a mental exam for further clarification.

The scope of a mental consultation is narrow, and does not include the evaluation of any physical symptoms, such as pain, inability to lift, bend, drive, etc. Instead, the mental consult is used to determine such things as memory function (the memory scale exam), impaired cognitive function (IQ tests, concentration tasks, etc.), and social skills (ability to function in a social or work environment).

Psychological exams are usually performed by psychologists with independent practices who do not work for the Social Security Administration. Mental exams, like physical consultative exams, are usually brief, and their findings alone will not determine the approval or disapproval of a claim.

However, they can be very influential to the disability examiner deciding the case, and for this reason it is important that those who are scheduled for a mental exam make every effort to attend, or to notify the Social Security office as soon as they become aware of a schedule conflict.