Impact of Coronavirus on Consultative Examinations in Social Security Disability Claims

During most claims for SSDI and SSI disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will require claimants to attend a consultative examination (CE) with a doctor assigned by SSA. 

The purpose of the CE is to provide the SSA or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will additional medical information to determine what the individual’s impairments are and to determine the functional limitations caused by those impairments.  Consultative examinations are most often utilized at the initial claim and Reconsideration levels of the disability process but they are also used at the hearing level to assist an ALJ in making a determination on an individual’s claim for benefits. 

The usefulness of the CE has long been questioned by most Social Security disability attorneys and many attorneys object to their clients attending a CE.  However, the reality is that most disability claimants will attend at least one, if not more than one, CE during the course of their claim. 

Attending a CE is normally not a problem but during the current coronavirus pandemic, personally attending a CE at a doctor’s office has become much more problematic.  While SSA has not officially stated whether consultative examinations will continue to be scheduled during the pandemic, the general sense among most disability attorneys is that consultative examinations will either not be scheduled or if they are, they will be optional depending on each claimant’s comfort level in personally attending the examination. 

At Henson Fuerst, we are suggesting to all our clients scheduled for a CE that they should first contact our office to discuss their options.  We are also suggesting that if our client is comfortable in personally attending the CE then they should do so, but if they have concerns with any potential exposure to the coronavirus and/or if their immune systems are compromised due to their impairments, we are suggesting that our clients opt out of attending the CE. 

If our client wants to opt out, we are asking that individual to contact us so we can alert SSA about our objection to the CE.  We do not want our clients to simply not appear for the scheduled CE.  In light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is our understanding that a refusal to attend a CE due to concerns over potential coronavirus exposure should not negatively impact the individual’s disability claim.  However, we are still asking that our clients reach out to us to discuss all options before deciding whether to attend or object to a scheduled consultative examination.  Any questions should be directed to the disability attorneys at Henson Fuerst.

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