A Functional Capacity Exam (FCE) consists of a series of tests that ideally will provide objective evidence of a nexus between your medical condition and your inability to perform your job duties. This applies to whether you can perform the material duties of your own occupation or of any occupation for which you are qualified based on your education, training, and experience.
1) What is an FCE?
An FCE is not just one test, but a series of tests performed by a certified evaluator. The purpose is to show how your medical condition affects your ability to do your job. The test consists of evaluation of:
- Physical strength.
- Range of motion.
- Lifting ability.
- Overall flexibility.
- Ability to carry objects.
- Other abilities that are required for you to do your job.
Ideally, the test will reveal how your medical condition interferes with your ability to do your job. One example relates to a postal worker who is expected to walk long distances while carrying a heavy bag of mail. An FCE may be used to determine how the worker’s back injury prevents him or her from performing the material duties of their own occupation since they cannot walk long distances and cannot carry a heavy load.
2) Call Us Before Agreeing to an FCE
If your disability insurance company’s claims representative asks you to submit to an FCE, we suggest you first call us at Dell & Schaefer to request a free consultation. We will tell you how we can help and give you information that will help you understand why the insurance company requires you to take this test. We have suggestions that will assist you in preparation for the exam, and tips for how to get through the test itself on the day of the exam.
In our experience, of helping thousands of claimants across the country, an FCE can be a double-edged sword. It can be a tool used to prove your medical condition prevents you from doing your job. At times, it can also be used against you if the FCE examiner prepares an adverse report. There are times we work to prove the test results are unreliable.
We always ask that the exam be videotaped. Many FCE examiners refuse to allow this. We press the insurance company to find one who will allow videotaping. If the company is adamant and says it cannot find an examiner who will agree to videotaping, we then suggest that claimants have someone go with them to take notes about the exam.
The reliability of the test depends on what the examiner writes down. There are times when the examiner makes mistakes. For example, we have seen an examiner note that the claimant didn’t try hard enough, or that a claimant was able to perform a task for 15 minutes when the video or witness document the test only lasted 8 or 10 minutes.
3) What Tests Can I Expect?
FCE examiners have an arsenal of tests at the ready and will generally administer a series of tests. The tests may be performed over several hours. In some cases, the tests may be administered over two consecutive days. What you will be asked to do depends on your diagnosis and job duties. A list of possible tests includes having you do any or all of the following:
- Walk on a treadmill.
- Walk normally.
- Take step exercises.
- Lift weights.
- Test your grip.
- Stack boxes.
- Test hand-eye coordination.
- Undergo dexterity tests.
- Manipulate various objects.
- Push objects.
- Pull objects.
- Take cognitive tests.
The examiner records how you perform on each test. The examiner also makes a subjective assessment about the effort you exerted in trying to do the tests. Were you cooperative and tried your best? Did you have problems such as sweating, trembling, nausea? Or, did the examiner conclude you did not put forth any effort and was “faking” pain and inability to perform.
The tests should not hurt. If you are in pain or struggling to do a requested task, inform the examiner.
In addition to these tests, the examiner will ask questions like:
- Having you report about your injury or medical condition or disease.
- What is your pain level?
- What is your job? If the examiner says they have your job description, ask to see it. Do not agree that it is correct unless you are absolutely certain all of your substantial and material duties are listed. Ask for a copy of the document they have so your disability attorney can review it for accuracy and completeness.
- Ask you for more details about how your activities affect your symptoms, and what symptoms you have that interfere with you ability to do your job.
4) How Can an FCE Help My Disability Claim?
The test seems to be good about connecting medical conditions involving chronic pain, fatigue, Parkinson’s Disease, and multiple sclerosis to the inability to perform material duties of an occupation. The test can relate subjective symptoms, like chronic pain and fatigue, to objective evidence that your are disabled and cannot do the material duties required of your job.
There are times when we have our clients undergo our own FCE to rebut the insurance company’s examiner who says the claimant “didn’t try hard enough.” Other times, we use it to prove the extent of your disability that shows you are unable to perform the material duties of your job.
5) How Can an FCE Hurt My Disability Claim?
Although the FCE is supposed to be administered by an impartial examiner, if the insurance company selects and pays the examiner, there is always a chance the results are inaccurate. Examiners may report that you did not try hard enough. That you faked pain when you really should not have been having pain. That you said “I can’t do that” when the examiner believed you could.
One example is that there is really no way to show that you cannot sit for six hours out of every eight-hour workday when the test given to you only has you sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
6) How to be Ready on the Day of the Test?
You may be nervous on the day of the test. That’s normal, but stress can affect how you perform on the tests. Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before and follow these tips that will help you get through the day or days of the testing process.
- Dress comfortably. You will be performing many physical tasks. You need to be comfortable and unrestricted for movement, so be sure you dress in a way that will allow a full range of motion.
- Take all necessary documents. This includes your ID. Confirm when you get there that the examiner has your relevant medical information.
- Take your assistive devices. This includes glasses, hearing aids, crutches, your walker, your cane, etc. Any items that you use in your daily life.
- Give the examiner a list, either written down or from your memory, of all the medications you took before arriving for the exam.
- Expect the test to take from three to five hours. It may be shorter or longer. Sometimes, the tests are given over two consecutive days. Expect delays.
- Do your best. Be honest with the examiner. Be sincere. Remember the examiner is making detailed notes about your performance. If anything is uncomfortable or painful, tell the examiner. It is better to express how you feel instead of grimacing and crying and not saying anything.
- Do not schedule anything for later that day or evening. The test may take longer than you expect. Plus, you may be very tired and need time to rest.
If you have more questions, or need assistance with your disability claim, call one of our lawyers at Dell & Schaefer for a free consultation.