medical expert

The Role of Medical Experts at a Disability Hearing

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

If your initial application for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, you should request a hearing. This is one of the first available steps in the disability application appeals process. At this hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Social Security Administration will oversee the process. Furthermore, the ALJ will evaluate your claim, review your medical records, and determine if your disability benefits application was wrongly denied and if you should receive benefits. 

Disability hearings can involve a number of moving parts. In some cases, either you, as the applicant, your attorney, or the ALJ will call a medical expert to weigh in on your claim. Here is what you should know about the role of medical experts at a disability hearing.

The Medical Expert’s Role in a Disability Hearing

A medical expert (ME) is a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who is an expert in their field of medicine and is called upon by the ALJ or you, the benefits applicant, at a disability hearing. Doctors will testify on physical illnesses whereas psychologists and psychiatrists will testify on mental conditions. The ME’s job is to provide impartial evidence for the ALJ to consider in making decisions on your case.

In order to qualify as a medical expert, the medical professional must be familiar with what is considered to be a medically determinable impairment for Social Security benefits purposes. Furthermore, they must be familiar with how the SSA defines the symptoms, signs, and required lab findings for its qualifying medical conditions as well as how the SSA defines a condition as “meeting” or “medically equaling” Blue Book listings. Additionally, a medical expert should be able to speak to residual functional capacity (RFC).

There are a number of roles a medical expert may be tasked with at a disability hearing. First and foremost, the ALJ may call on them to read and review your medical records. They may also explain your medical condition to the ALJ as well as comment on whether or not your medical condition equals or is the equivalent to a condition listed in the SSA’s Blue Book which details the medical conditions that can qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits.

A medical expert can also be called by your attorney at your disability hearing. To be clear, the medical expert cannot be your treating medical doctor nor can the expert have previously met you. This is because the medical expert is serving in the role of an objective third party. They are not to come with previous knowledge of you or your case so they can remain as objective as possible.

Medical experts can even play a role after the hearing has wrapped up. They can be asked more questions through interrogatories sent to them after the hearing. Interrogatories, however, must be reviewed and can be objected to.

Los Angeles Social Security Disability Attorney

For questions on the disability benefits application and appeals process, you can count on the knowledgeable team at Disability Advocates Group for answers. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.