Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Disability Evaluations Offer New Source of Income. (High Demand for This Public Service)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Disability Evaluations Offer New Source of Income. (High Demand for This Public Service)

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO -- Psychiatrists can easily expand their practices by evaluating applicants for Social Security disability benefits, Dr. C. Donald Williams reported at the annual conference of the Academy of Organizational and Occupational Psychiatry.

"You're really doing a public service when you do these. It's a great way to become practiced in doing efficient evaluations, and it's a great introduction to doing independent medical evaluations," said Dr. Williams at the meeting cosponsored by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Since 65% of all Social Security consultant evaluations are mental health evaluations, psychiatrists willing to perform this service are in high demand. "They'll be delighted to schedule two to three per week for you, year in and year out," said Dr. Williams, who is in private practice in Yakima, Wash. The first appointments can often be scheduled within a week of the initial call.

The task involves a brief review of patient records and an in-person evaluation that takes 30-45 minutes--including the mental status exam and the preparation of a report. Psychiatrists who are practiced at performing these evaluations frequently can dictate a report in 10 minutes or less.

Payment for this service varies from state to state. In the state of Washington, for example, payment for a full evaluation runs about $180, but the physician must provide his or her own transcription services. Other states provide toll-free telephone numbers where physicians can dictate their reports at no charge.

The task involves evaluating people who have applied for the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI is for people who have paid into the Social Security system, and SSI is a needs-based program more like welfare.

Both programs require that applicants meet certain medical criteria for disability, which is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable impairment that can be expected to result in death or to last for 12 continuous months. …

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