Over the past couple of decades, there has been a shift in regard to the management and overall stigma of psychiatric disability. As the professional community and the general public begin to learn more about mental health and the potential implications, greater awareness has lead to greater support.
Currently, approximately 20% of adults who receive Social Security Disability(SSD) benefits have a psychiatric/psychological disability.
If you plan on applying for Social Security disability (SSD) or social security income (SSI), based on a specific condition or mental health disorder, you may be required to sit for an SSI/SSD psychological exam.
What Is an SSI/SSD Psychological Exam?
As its name suggests, an SSI/SSD psychological exam is essentially a mental consultative test that will allow professional examiners to better understand your condition. Since many individuals do not have a medical history in regard to mental health disorders, an exam is typically required.
In 2013 alone, the Social Security Administration (SSA) received approximately 2.6 million applications for SSD and 1.6 million applications for SSI — and the overall disability determination process is the same for both.
Remember, having a mental health disorder does not necessarily equate to a disability. The SSA defines a disability as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity” — in this case, due to mental impairments, for a continuous period that is no less than 12 months.
The exam itself is generally administered by a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist, who have no affiliation with the SSA in terms of employment. This helps to ensure that no bias is made and that a more accurate professional opinion is made.
Here’s What You Can Expect
The purpose of an SSI/SSD exam is to help an examiner determine whether or not you display evidence of functional limitations in regard to your mental health. This will allow them to determine what it is you can do and in contrast, what it is you may struggle with.
For the average applicant, the determination process takes anywhere between 90 and 120 days from the initial filing date. During this time, a number of steps are taken in regard to financial and other non-medical eligibility requirements, your capacity for past work, and capacity for any work.
As mentioned, when the available information is insufficient or unavailable, an exam is often arranged in order to properly evaluate the claim. In terms of the exam itself, the actual exam you’re required to take, you may be given an SSA psychological exam, which will focus more on your mental status, IQ, memory, and overall cognitive function.
In comparison, an SSA psychiatric exam (administered by M.D.s), may focus more on variables such as your mood, mannerisms, and concentration levels, in order to evaluate those exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, depression, psychosis, etc.
The questions you’re asked and the overall process you experience will depend on your personal case and records. However, you will likely be asked:
- What the symptoms are that prevent you from working
- When those symptoms started and how they have impacted your life since they’ve progressed
- Whether or not you have ever received any treatment (are you currently taking any medication)?
- What your typical day looks like in terms of routines and activities
Throughout the course of the exam, the examiner will make observations about your general appearance, behaviors, level of perception, your overall approach in regards to the evaluation, etc.
As discussed above, mental health professionals will administer your SSI/SSD exam, which means they are qualified and more importantly, trained to spot key inconsistencies. This means that you should not attempt to score poorly in order to receive results that are in your favor.
3 Tips That Will Help Drive Your Success
There’s no need to be anxious when it comes to your SSI/SSD psychological exam.
Tip #1: Understand that your exam may be short or long
You have may read about other people’s experiences, but these should not be used as a point of reference. Although they can give you a rough idea, the total examination time will vary from one person to the next.
For example, one individual may be done in 25 minutes, whereas another individual may be in an exam for 2.5 hours. Basically, go into the exam understanding that you’re a unique individual with a unique claim, avoiding any sort of rigid thought process.
Tip #2: Be well rested and put forth your best effort
The night before your exam, be sure to get a restful night’s sleep so that you can give your best effort. This means that you need to answer each question in an honest and complete manner.
The reason being is that if an examiner thinks that you give them less than your best effort, the results of your exam could be deemed invalid. In turn, this can cast doubt upon your entire case and your claim may be denied — even if you do suffer from a potentially debilitating mental health condition.
Tip #3: Know your work history and come prepared
A week or even longer before your scheduled exam, it’s important that you go over your work history. Start by making a detailed list of your past jobs and write down each and every aspect you struggled with — no matter how trivial it may seem.
For example, did you have issues interacting with your management team, co-workers, or customers? Did you often isolate yourself because you were anxious, or experience severe mood swings that were documented in a complaint? Were you absent often due to your mental well-being, or perhaps even fired based on abnormal behaviors?
If you require assistance and would like to apply for SSD or SSI benefits, please review whether or not you may be eligible here.
Whether you would like to apply or have already been denied, there are steps you can take to move forward. Be sure to check out our FAQs section for more information. You can contact our firm directly at #(847) 577-4476 for a complimentary case evaluation or complete our online form.