What is a Functional Capacity Exam & Will it Help My Long-Term Disability Claim?

When you file for long-term disability benefits, the insurance company may request that you submit to a Functional Capacity Examination or FCE. The purpose of the FCE is to test your ability to perform certain activities that would be necessary for you to do your job. The FCE measures the degree to which you can perform each of the activities. 

The activities included in a Functional Capacity Exam are not limited to the activities that you would need to perform to do the job you were doing before your injury or disability. The FCE includes activities that you would need to perform at jobs that you would be qualified for based on your experience, training, and education. 

FCEs for Disability:  Best Case vs. Worst Case Scenario 

In the best-case scenario, the FCE demonstrates that your disabling condition severely interferes with your ability to do your job. The interference is so drastic that you are unable to perform any of the duties required for your job or any job that you would be qualified to work. If so, the FCE could be a useful tool in obtaining your disability benefits.

However, the results of the FCE could go against you. If an examiner states that your medical condition does not prevent you from performing activities required to hold a job, your disability could be denied.  If your policy is employer- or group-sponsored, it is likely governed by ERISA. ERISA disability policies are different because ERISA is a federal law that is tilted in favor of insurance companies. Most of these policies mandate that you cooperate and attend exams like a FCE, even though the "independent" examiners are paid by the same insurance companies.

If you have applied for disability benefits and the insurance company sends you a notice that it intends to conduct a Functional Capacity Exam, we strongly recommend that you contact our long-term disability lawyer at 816-203-0143. There are suggestions that we can make to ensure that the test is performed fairly and the results are accurate. We can also give you information and guidance that can help you with your disability claim or appeal. 

In this article, we review some of the general aspects of an FCE and how you can prepare for an FCE. Your disability case may be complicated or involve issues that require a more thorough and detailed analysis. Before you attend the Functional Capacity Exam, you might benefit from a consultation with our disability attorney in Kansas City, MO. 

What to Expect at a Functional Capacity Exam

The FCE notice should give you general information about the FCE, including the date and times of the examination. Some FCEs take several hours, but you could be required to appear over two days to complete the examination. 

The tests used during the FCE should be tailored to the requirements of your job or jobs that you could hold based on your skills, experience, and education. However, some basic tests are generally included in most Functional Capacity Exams

Physical Tests Used in FCEs

There are a variety of physical tests used in FCEs. Physical tests that you might be asked to perform include:

  • Walking on a treadmillfunctional capacity exam for disability benefits lawyer kansas missouri.jpg
  • Stacking, pushing, and lifting boxes or objects
  • Sitting 
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Stooping and kneeling
  • Crouching
  • Crawling
  • Balancing
  • Waking up and down steps
  • Reaching in several directions
  • Grip tests
  • Lifting weights
  • Hand and eye coordination
  • Manipulating different objects

Depending on your restrictions and occupation, you could be asked to complete one or more cognitive tests. These cognitive tests are typically done separate and apart from the FCE and usually required when your disability involves a cognitive and mental impairment.

Questions by the Examiner at a FCE

During your FCE, the examiner is likely to ask you numerous questions. The examiner may ask you for your pain level at the beginning and end of each test. He could ask you for your pain level during the test.

The examiner may ask you to describe your job, including the tasks and duties required to perform your job. If the examiner tells you that he has a copy of your job description, ask for a copy of the job description for your records. Do not agree to the job description unless you read the entire description, receive a copy to take with you, and you are absolutely sure that the description is accurate. 

You may be asked about your injury or medical condition. Do not offer details that you are unsure about or that a medical doctor should determine. Also, the examiner may ask you how your medical condition impacts other activities. He may ask you what specific symptoms of your medical condition interfere with your job duties and other activities.

Because many people are nervous, they are unsure what to say when the examiner begins questioning them. Speaking with our disability lawyer in Kansas City, MO before the FCE to address these issues can be beneficial. 

Preparing for a Functional Capacity Examination

There are some tips to keep in mind as your FCE approaches. Try to get a good night’s sleep before the FCE and wear comfortable shoes and clothing. You do not want anything to restrict your movement. 

Make sure that you take all necessary items with you, such as your identification, medical devices you need (i.e. walker, hearing aids, crutches, etc.), and a list of your current medications. 

Do your best during each test. Be honest. Examiners are trained to spot when a person is acting as if a task is too difficult. However, the tests should not hurt. If you are in pain during a test or cannot perform an action, tell the examiner. If you need a break or some water, tell the examiner. 

Did the Functional Capacity Exam Help My Disability Claim?

As with any examination, the results can be skewed by the examiner. An FCE is intended to be an impartial, objective evaluation of your abilities. However, an insurance company usually will choose examiners that may be more favorable to them. If the insurance company is paying for the exam, there is always a chance the examiner could weigh the results in favor of the insurance provider.

Also, an FCE cannot accurately test some areas because you are not in the test for a full workday. For instance, you might be able to stand for 15 minutes without severe pain, but that does not mean you can stand for an eight-hour shift. 

Like other medical tests and evaluations, there are a lot of things that could work against you when you take a Functional Capacity Examination. However, an FCE could also be very beneficial to your disability claim and may actually help obtain benefits. When you have a condition that is difficult to relate to specific job duties, an FCE can provide objective evidence that indicates your condition does not permit you to perform certain duties.

If you believe that the examiner was not impartial or honest, one benefit of hiring a long-term disability lawyer is he or she can discuss performing an independent FCE to refute the examiner’s findings. 

Contact Our Long Term Disability Lawyer in Kansas City, MO

The Law Office of Kevin J. McManus helps clients obtain the disability benefits they deserve. Call 816-203-0143 to discuss your disability claim or appeal with an experienced disability attorney in Kansas City.  If you have been denied disability benefits, we will review your denial letter for free and develop a strategy on how to fight back.  Call us today!


Kevin J. McManus
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Kevin McManus is an accident injury and disability lawyer in Kansas City, MO, and Overland Park, KS
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