Expert Witnesses

Claimants frequently ask if they can call upon a friend or family member to support their disability claim. Although you have the right to present any evidence you want at a hearing, the testimony of a lay witness is often assigned little weight by the administrative law judge (ALJ) deciding the case, particularly if the witness has no expertise in the medical or vocational fields, or if he/she is biased due to personal interest. However, the ALJ may request the services of an independent expert to provide impartial opinion evidence in deciding your case.

A medical expert (ME) is typically a physician or psychologist with enough training, knowledge, and skill in their field to be better qualified than the ALJ to form an opinion on the particular subject. Although they have never treated you, the ME will have access to all the medical evidence on your claim and provide an opinion on the existence, duration, and severity of your medically determinable impairments, and what limitations the combined impairments may impose. They should also testify as to whether your impairments meet or equal a Listing (SSA's Listing of Impairments) at step three of the sequential evaluation process.

For steps four and five, the ALJ may call on a vocational expert (VE) to classify your past work and testify whether an individual with certain limitations could return to such work or perform other work in the national economy. The VE must base his or her testimony on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and Selected Characteristics and Occupations (SCO), though he or she may also rely upon experience, education, and training.

These expert witnesses may provide oral testimony at a hearing or supply written responses to interrogatories. Although paid by Social Security, their opinions are not partial. While you have the right to cross-examine the expert witnesses, your attorney or representative can help you decide what questions to ask.


An expert need not be regularly licensed nor a specialist in their branch to competently testify. Botehlo v. Bycura, 320 SE2d 59 (1984, South Carolina Court of Appeals)

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