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What is a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) and should I go to a FCE?

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What is a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) and Should I Go to an FCE?

Disability attorney Stephen Jessup discusses what a functional capacity exam is and if a disability claimant should attend a FCE.

A Functional Capacity Evaluation or Exam or an FCE is a test that’s a battery of tests that you will be put through to see what your physical capabilities are with regard to work. Usually, it’s going to be weighed against the typical Department of Labor and Dictionary of Occupational title standards of sedentary, light, medium, heavy. Going to one; FCEs can be a double-edge sword. It could come up that there’s nothing wrong with you or, on the flipside, you may have something where it says, “Listen, this person can’t even work at a sedentary level.” And there’s many ways of having them performed; there’s different types.

Insurance companies are always very quick to try to point out that the one you had wasn’t sufficient, it’s unreliable, that theirs is better. So there’s a lot that goes into giving an FCE. FCEs can be wonderful, wonderful evidence of disability, but at the same time can also hurt you. And like statistics, it can be used any which way you want to do it, so it’s very important to know what all your options are before going to have an FCE. If you have any questions, if the insurance company wants to send you to one, or you have a question about your own claim and possibly your doctor’s even referring you to one, or if your doctor is suggesting you undergo have an FCE, give us a call and we can discuss what your options are, what your possibilities are, and what you might be able to expect.

There are 12 opinions so far. Add your comment now.

Doug Miller:

Can a contract physical therapist who get pain by my company legally do my FCE or dose it have to be an outside the company contractor? I fill it, is a conflict of intrust if I have to use the one the company already pays to work for them. All she is going to tell them is what they want to hear.

Attorney Stephen Jessup:


Unfortunately, it is legal for the insurance company to send you for an examination performed by a medical professional of their choosing. You could consider having an FCE performed by your doctor, or someone recommended by your doctor, as a way to protect yourself from the insurance company’s examiner writing a report to their liking.


I have been totally disabled for over twelve years. The new physician I have is now wanting me to take a FCE test which I have had several times and was not sufficient enough. The test is not being required by my employer or by SSI, so I don’t want to open up a can of worms. I feel this doctor wants to hurt me because my employer long term disability wants a form filled out maybe once a year. Is she still disabled if yes please indicate that on this form. That’s what a doctor is supposed to do if he is my pain management physician. I feel he is now trying to throw me under under a bus. What can I do the test will cost me $540.00 and I’m on a fixed income. My employer nor SSI will pay for it. What can I do?

Attorney Stephen Jessup:


When it comes to filling out forms detailing a patient’s physical functional abilities, it is not uncommon that a doctor will want an FCE to document the level of restrictions and limitations so they can then in turn complete the form. If you are not satisfied with the level of care you receive from your doctor then you have the right to seek new treatment.


Will the test be performed based on the job I was doing? I am being investigated by my Dr. for a serious nerve condition, and the wait list for the specialist is 8+ months. I worked as a custodian and was wondering if they base their testing on previous work performed.

Attorney Stephen Jessup:


The testing is generalized in nature and does not typically replicate any one occupation. Is your insurance carrier requiring the testing as part of its review?


I have Cauda Equina Syndrome as a result of a work related injury. I have bowel and bladder regimes like a paraplegic and weakness in my lower legs with numbness. Also sitting causes numbness to exacerbate and I get numb from the waist down on the backside. I am suffering depression from this. Will this test include those types of injury?

Attorney Stephen Jessup:


A functional capacity evaluation tests your overall physical functional ability for work, which would take into account lower extremity weakness.


I have been having chronic back pain for over 10 yrs. Now it seems to be getting worst. My Doctor put me on restrictions from my job. Now my job needs them to fill out some fmla paper work. But I requested that she allows me to get off restrictions and allow me to return to work. Since I am on leave with out pay. My job said the restrictions that my doctor put me on is basically my whole job. So now my doctor wants me to go do a fce test before she will sign the papers. It is about a month or two wait before I can get in to do the fce test. What should I do? I need to continue to work to take care of home. I have been dealing with the pain for years and I will continue if she allows me to. I don’t want a test that can cause more problems. I had a M.I.r. done and a xray on my back and it came back negative. Help me please.

Stephen Jessup:


If your employer provides Short Term Disability insurance you may be able to make a claim for benefits until you are cleared for work.


The insurance company want me to do a functional capacity assessment as I have had a shoulder injury which was done moving heavy item at work. It has gone into a secondary condition frozen shoulder which I have now had for nearly two years. I was doing restricted duties but I could not keep it up and have now been off work for 3 months in which time they have had me job searching and stopping and starting my physio. The job search person who works for interact injury management has now asked for this assessment I could not attend job trials that where over an hours driving and it set off the pain in shoulder blade, top of arm and up neck giving me headaches I get excused very quickly. I am taking Ritalin for add, valium for anxiety and panic and also taking endep everyday. I am wondering if these will affect my tests they give me.

Attorney Stephen Jessup:


Unfortunately, we would not be able to know if the medication would affect the test results. When is the FCE scheduled for and who is your disability insurance carrier?

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