Most administrative law judges (ALJs) review the medical evidence before your Social Security Disability hearing. If the medical evidence is unclear, or if additional information is needed to evaluate your case, the judge hearing your case may ask a medical expert to testify. Below is a list of questions the judge may ask the medical expert at your hearing.
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Sample Questions for the Medical Expert at Your Social Security Disability Hearing
1. Please state your full name and address.
2. Is the attached resume or curriculum vitae a correct summary of your professional qualifications? This is an important question to ask if you plan on objecting to the expert’s qualifications. For example, we often object to an expert’s qualifications if he or she has not been in private practice in more than a decade. Health care is changing constantly and we think that an expert should be up to date on the latest research and treatment protocols.
3. Are you board certified in any medical specialty and, if so, which field? A medical provider can still be an expert even though he or she isn’t board certified. But if you have supportive opinions from a board certified physician, you can argue that his or her opinions should be given greater weight by the Social Security Administration.
4. Are you aware that your responses to these questions are sought from you as an impartial medical expert? In most Virginia workers compensation, medical malpractice, and car accident cases the parties will hire an expert witness to testify in support of their position. In disability cases the medical expert should be impartial.
5. Have you had any prior discussions with the judge about the merits of this case? The answer should be no. If the medical expert says yes, you have the right to know the substance of those discussions.
6. Have you examined the claimant? Usually the answer is no. Though a medical expert can testify regarding a person they’ve never examined, this can be used to argue that your treating physician’s opinions should be given greater weight because he or she examined you.
7. What medical evidence have you reviewed? If the medical expert has not reviewed all the evidence, then his or her opinion may be invalid because it’s based on inaccurate or incomplete information.
8. Do you have sufficient evidence to form an opinion on the claimant’s medical status? Without sufficient evidence, the medical expert’s opinion is invalid. If additional information is needed he or she should state what information they need and the judge should request that information. The hearing may need to be continued.
9. Please list the claimant’s severe medical impairments and the exhibits and objective findings (diagnostic tests, examinations, procedures, etc) that support your opinions. These impairments form the basis of your theory of the case and why you should receive disability benefits. By asking for supportive exhibits you are getting the medical expert to help you prove your case.
10. Are you familiar with Social Security’s Listing of Impairments? Most medical experts spend a significant portion of their time testifying at hearing. The answer should be yes.
11. In your opinion do any of the claimant’s severe medical impairments meet or equal a listing? If so, please explain the evidence you’re relying on. If you meet a listing you win your case. Make sure to ask the expert about the listings.
12. In your opinion do any of the claimant’s impairments present findings that are at least equal in severity to a listed impairment? Not all medical conditions are covered by a listing. You ask this question to see if you have a severe impairment that is equivalent to one of the listed conditions.
13. If the expert testifies you meet a list, ask the date on which the impairment attained that level of severity. This is the date the judge may use as your established onset date of disability.
14. Is there any evidence the claimant has not complied with treatment? If the record is full of indications that the claimant did not comply with medical treatment, either avoid this question or ask if the non-compliance impacted the answer. Some experts may testify that the conditions are severe or listing-level even with non-compliance.
15. Is there any treatment that could be prescribed that may improve the claimant’s condition? Most medical experts will avoid stating that treatment would fix your condition if you’re receiving care from a doctor currently.
16. If you do not meet a listing, ask the medical expert for his or her opinion on your functional limitations (sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, reaching, handling, pushing, pulling, bending, kneeling, etc) and the basis of those opinions. This can help you prove that your residual functional capacity evaluation prevents you from maintaining competitive employment.
17. List the specific nonexertional limitations. If your claim is based on mental health conditions or pulmonary disorders, you likely have nonexertional limitations that affect your ability to concentrate, follow instructions, and get along with others.
18. Do you have any additional information that would help the court decide this case?
These are just some of the questions that you or your attorney should ask the medical expert at your SSD or SSI hearing.
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