When you apply for Social Security disability benefits due to a mental, psychological, or emotional condition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will typically schedule an independent evaluation with a psychologist or other mental health professional. This is because disability assessors at state Disability Determination Services (DDS) require current examinations that assess specific criteria relevant to the SSA’s rules governing disability determinations. Most Social Security disability claims are processed through local SSA field offices and State agencies called DDS.Unfortunately, trying to prove that you have a mental illness or injury is much more complex than proving that you have a physical illness or injury. Regardless of treatment history, almost all claimants who allege mental health problems are scheduled for mental consultative exams in DDS offices.
Functional limitations are evaluated in four areas that are thought to be essential for work:
- Activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Social functioning
- Concentration, perseverance, or work rate
- Episodes of relapse in a work-like setting
Psychological Consultative Examination
The Social Security Administration will approve disability benefits only after verifying that the applicant meets all eligibility criteria. They will review the medical evidence, including any exams requested by DDS, to determine whether the requirements for adults with mental disorders have been met. These requirements include an applicant’s history of medical treatment and health conditions, any currently prescribed medications and treatment, social and family history, a physical examination, and mental status assessment.
Furthermore, the report will likely include an analysis of any psychological and clinical test results related to the applicant’s medical history and examination results. If there is conflicting evidence, the adjudicator may have to determine the probative value of each piece of evidence on the ultimate question of benefit eligibility.
Mental Status Examination and Psychiatric Tests
The SSA can order a variety of different types of mental examinations for any given case. For those suffering from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, the SSA may schedule a mental status exam (MSE), intended to provide a snapshot of your current mental health condition.
During a typical MSE, you will be asked to name the current President of the United States, count backward by sevens from 100, recall items from a list after several minutes, explain a well-known proverb, and discuss your family history and childhood.
Individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or psychosis and those with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression will usually be scheduled for a psychiatric exam. There are different eligibility rules for people with a disability over 50. Make sure you understand the evidentiary requirements specific to your particular situation.
When Is a Psychological Assessment Performed?
Those with a learning disability, cognitive disorder, stroke, head injury, organic brain disorder, or intellectual disability will be subjected to psychological evaluations as part of the decision process. A psychological examination will be scheduled if a person is thought to have borderline low intellectual abilities or an IQ that has sharply decreased.
Those who have significant memory problems, whether due to an organic brain disorder, a head injury, or another cause, are often scheduled for psychological testing as well. Psychological testing may be ordered for both children and adults.
What Are the Different Types of Psychological Tests?
The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, designed to measure intellectual functioning in adults, is the standard IQ test used in psychological evaluations. As a result, this test, now in its fourth edition, is abbreviated as the WAIS-IV. The WAIS-IV generates four distinct index scores in the following areas:
- Verbal Comprehension: This section’s score reflects your verbal communication and reasoning skills, as well as your level of knowledge about society and culture.
- Perceptual Reasoning: This section puts your ability to solve visual and spatial puzzles to the test.
- Working Memory: This refers to your ability to maintain attention, concentration, and mental focus, especially when solving math problems and working with numbers.
- Processing Speed: This score reflects your mental and motor speed, as well as your visual-motor coordination abilities.
A full-scale IQ score will be assigned in addition to the above scores. For example, with a standard deviation of 15, the median full-scale IQ score is 100. The full-scale score is more than just the average of the four index scores. Your performance influences the full-scale score in those areas. Borderline low intellectual functioning is defined by scores that are two and a half to three standard deviations below the median. If this sounds complicated, contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who understands SSA’s disability determination criteria.
The Importance of Performing Well during Testing
Applicants must resist the urge to exaggerate the condition’s severity or intentionally perform poorly on any type of psychological testing. This is referred to as “malingering” (faking), and advisory examiners are trained to detect it. If it is determined that you are exaggerating the extent of your impairments, you will lose credibility with Social Security, and your claim may be denied as a result.
Other applicants are tempted to go the other way, that is, to minimize their psychological or mental problems, possibly out of fear or humiliation. You must be completely honest with the examiner about your problems. Failure to do so may result in the denial of a valid claim.
We Are Here to Assist You
While psychological testing can help support your claim, the best indicator of disability is how your condition limits your ability to function normally in daily life.
When your condition prevents you from working, and you want to apply, or if your previous application was denied and you need to file an appeal, you should contact an Illinois Disability Attorney. He can assist you with every aspect of the process.
As a knowledgeable and experienced disability lawyer, he knows how to apply for a claim with proper documentation. When a disabled person hires a lawyer, the lawyer will explain the process, assist with completing appropriate forms, submit documentation on time, file for applicable disability benefits, and keep you updated on the application’s status until a decision has been reached.