I was recently asked if you need a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) in a Social Security disability case.
As I previously wrote, it is vital to get a statement from your doctor about your abilities and limitations in the workplace. This is sometimes called a medical source statement, medical opinion, or a statement of your residual functional capacity.
Normally, this medical opinion is just your doctor’s “best guess” of what you can and cannot do. I don’t want to put this down. A doctor who knows your condition, and who knows you, can make a very good guess about how the conditions affects you and how it would affect you in the workplace.
So, do you still need an FCE in a Social Security disability case?
Well, a functional capacity evaluation objectively tests what you can and cannot do. A typical FCE will take 4 to 6 hours to test what you can do. You will be tired and quite possibly sore after it is done. However, this is often the very best evidence of your abilities and limitations.
Social Security already sent me to a doctor who had me bend and stretch. Is that the same thing?
No. You may have been sent for a consultative examination. However, that is a much shorter test. The consultative examiner may watch you walk and have you bend this way and that. From this minimal information, the consultative examiner extrapolates (makes a best guess) of your abilities and limitations.
If that leaves you furrowing your brow wondering how that tells what you can and can’t do? You’re right, it doesn’t (at least not very well). Unfortunately, Social Security will not send you for a functional capacity evaluation. If you want one, you will have to obtain it on your own (or with the help of your lawyer).
Why aren’t FCE’s performed in every Social Security disability case?
The problem is cost. A functional capacity evaluation will cost anywhere between $350 and $900 (depending on the therapist performing the evaluation and your location). In Pueblo Colorado, I see FCE’s running about $500. In Denver, the cost is closer to $850.
If you can have an FCE performed, that is great. I encourage you to do it. However, if you cannot afford an FCE, don’t give up hope! The majority of my clients cannot afford an FCE. I still find ways of building their cases.
Another issue is that a FCE is often not performed by a doctor. That means the FCE report is often signed of by a physical therapist, who in Social Security’s eyes is not an “acceptable medical source.” However, Social Security Ruling SSR 06-03p will allow Social Security to consider a therapists report as “other medical evidence.”
However, evidence from “other medical sources” is still not as good (all things being equal) as evidence from “acceptable medical sources.” “Acceptable medical sources medical sources” are higher on the evidentiary totem pole than “other medical sources.”
So, what can you do if you have a FCE completed by a therapist? Ask you doctor (likely to be an “acceptable medical source”) to review the FCE report and write a statement adopting the findings (with any changes if necessary) of the FCE.