Preparing for the Social Security Disability Psychiatric Exam

If you’ve applied for Social Security Disability, you may get news that you’ve been referred for a psychiatric examination. It’s bound to make you nervous – but don’t worry, there are things you can do to make the process easier. Our Arizona disability attorneys explain preparing for the Social Security Disability psychiatric exam.

How Do You Prepare for the Social Security Disability Psychiatric Exam?

To prepare for the Social Security Disability psychiatric exam, identify the day, time, and location of your exam. Arrange for transportation and get directions, if necessary. Think through your medical and treatment history so that you are prepared to answer questions relating to your condition and how it limits your work.

Be truthful in the examination, and represent your medical status as accurately as possible. If you are able, bring identification to the interview.

What is a Social Security Disability psychiatric exam?

A Social Security Disability psychiatric exam is a type of consultative exam. When social security claims examiners don’t have enough information to decide an application based on the information provided, they may seek to gather more information through a consultative exam.

The psychiatric exam evaluates and documents a person’s mental health and how it interferes with their ability to work.

Who gets referred for a Social Security Disability psychiatric exam?

You may be referred for a Social Security Disability psychiatric exam if you are claiming social security benefits based on a mental disorder. In addition, a psychiatric exam may be ordered for other applications where it may be relevant. If your mental health is directly or indirectly relevant to your claim for benefits, examiners may request that you complete a psychiatric exam.

What mental disorders may be referred to in an SSD psychiatric exam?

Mental disorders listed in the Social Security Blue Book that may be referred for an SSD psychiatric exam include:

  • Neurocognitive disorders, including executive function, language, and perceptual motor
  • Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar and related
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Somatic symptoms
  • Personality and impulse-control
  • Autism spectrum
  • Neurodevelopmental deficits
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders

Even if you’re not making your Social Security claim based on one of these disorders, you may still be referred for a psychiatric exam if your mental health may be relevant to your application.

See Disability Evaluation Under Social Security – 12.00 Mental Disorders

Are all Social Security Disability psychiatric exams the same?

To some extent, all Social Security Disability psychiatric exams are similar. They must follow a prescribed format and report information that claims examiners are looking for. However, each applicant is unique, and the purpose of a psychological exam is to answer the relevant questions for the application.

The Social Security Administration provides guidance for professionals. The General Consultative Examination and Report Green Book guidelines apply, and there are additional requirements for examinations relating to mental disorders.

Basic information and presentation

The examiner must verify the applicant’s identification or provide a physical description. The examiner will report on the applicant’s appearance, thought and perception, mood, judgment, and cognition.

Medical and personal history

An oral medical history and who is providing it, whether it is the applicant or someone else. Treatment history, educational, occupational, and military history.

Current medical information

The main reason the person is not working is reported in a narrative. The report should include the onset and progress of the disorder, current symptoms, and factors that increase the problem or provide relief.

Functioning in life activities

The applicant’s daily activities and how their condition limits them.

Mental functioning

Ability to process information, interact, maintain pace, self-manage, function socially, work, and perform daily activities.


Whether the applicant cooperated with the evaluation.


Reported according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and including American Psychiatric Association nomenclature.


Whether the applicant can manage their own finances.

Specific disorder requirements

Additional requirements that are specific to the disorder alleged. For example, a claim based on schizophrenia must detail periods the applicant lived in a structured setting, episodes, and medication side effects.

Medical opinion

The nature of the applicant’s mental condition, any discrepancies in findings, and whether the applicant can understand and follow instructions, concentrate, interact in a work environment, and deal with normal pressures in a work setting.


A forecast of the person’s condition in the future and treatment recommendations.

Who will perform my Social Security Disability psychiatric exam?

Usually, your own treating physician is the preferred person to conduct your psychiatric exam.

The treating professional must be qualified, equipped, and willing to do the test. They must agree to the fee provided by the Social Security Administration.

There are some reasons that you may be referred to someone other than your care provider.

For example, if they decline to do the exam, there are conflicts in their medical records, or there are indicators that they may not be a good source of information, the exam may be referred to someone else.

Preparing for the Social Security Disability Psychiatric Examination

Remember that the person conducting the test is likely to ask you about your personal history, including jobs that you have had and any military service. They’ll ask if you have been hospitalized and how you have been treated for your medical conditions.

They will ask you to perform mental tests, which may include:

  • Intelligence tests
  • Memory
  • Recall of basic events (like who the President is)
  • Concentration
  • Judgment, interpreting information
  • Following directions
  • Other neuropsychological tests

You’ll talk about how your conditions limit your ability to work. Don’t prepare “right” answers, but be ready to provide information. Psychiatrists are trained to identify people who are malingering or faking their symptoms, so be truthful. Don’t downplay your symptoms, either.

Talk to Our Arizona Disability Attorneys

Are you wondering about preparing for the Social Security Disability psychiatric exam? Talk to a lawyer at Pekas Smith Disability Attorneys. We offer free consultations regarding Social Security Disability applications. We can talk about whatever questions or issues may be important in your case, including preparing for a disability psychiatric examination. Contact us today for your consultation.

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