A Functional Capacity Exam (or “FCE”) is an exam that is used to determine a person’s work abilities and permanent restrictions. The FCE is typically administered by a therapist and will consist of several smaller tests (example: the doctor may ask you to bend over and touch your toes or ask you to pick up different amounts of weight). BE AWARE – there are other “fake” tests that the examiner may use to determine if you are exaggerating the physical limitations you may have, always give your honest full effort.
You will be observed the entire time you are at the examiner’s office, even in the waiting room. Why is this important? If your doctor says you can’t sit for more than 15 minutes and you sit in the waiting room for an hour waiting to get your FCE, your claim is already in big trouble. I tell my clients to be cautious and to ALWAYS CONDUCT YOURSELF AS IF YOU ARE BEING WATCHED!
Also, I always tell people if you are going to an FCE, don’t take your pain medication before the exam. I know this may be very unpleasant for some folks but this is necessary to get an accurate measurement of your true abilities; if pain medications are masking your pain during the examination, you may be completing tasks that you would not normally be able to do without a great deal of pain and discomfort. A Functional Capacity Exam is NOT the same thing as an impairment rating.
Once your FCE is complete, the report has to be dictated and/or typed up by the examiner’s office and then your workers’ comp doctor has to approve the exam and the permanent restrictions set forth. Once this is done a copy of the report can be obtained. If you get an FCE report with restrictions, you need to make sure you have a very clear understanding of what these restrictions mean. If you are unclear about the restrictions or what they mean, ask for clarification from your doctor.
Getting an FCE does not necessarily mean that your workers’ comp claim is over; if you need guidance on what to do next, contact an experienced attorney who can advise you of your options.