The Independent Medical Examination
Oftentimes it is not wise to solely rely upon your regular attending physician (”treating source”), but to also utilize outside experts early on during case development on a disability claim, or when preparing for a Social Security disability appeal. However, since an independent medical examination (”IME”) is usually quite expensive, timing and strategy should be taken into consideration. In terms of the former, it is best to do one prior to the expiration of the date last insured and when a disability hearing is first requested. Also, when an appeal is remanded back from the Appeals Council for another hearing. A good strategy is to use an IME when you have only one treating supportive doctor, or when they are only a general practitioner. Then you want to seek out an IME from a board certified specialist related to your impairment. Second and third opinions, if you can afford them, are also helpful. Make sure you choose the right specialist however, given your physical/mental impairment or combination of the same. An unrelated specialist’s opinion will carry little if any weight during an appeal and won’t help much in winning disability benefits. Remember, you are trying to bolster your treating source’s opinion. If you haven’t seen your regular physician in some time, go back there first before an IME. Longitudinal doctor/patient relationships are afforded much more weight by the Social Security Administration in SSDI and SSI cases than one time examinations. This principal applies equally with independent medical examiners. If you have seen one before and received a favorable report, but a lot of time has past, go back for an update. Finding the right doctor isn’t easy. That’s why a competent disability attorney will already have a list of approved specialists available.