At every disability hearing, there’s the claimant, their representative, the judge, a hearing reporter who records the proceedings, and a vocational expert who testifies whether the claimant can perform any jobs.
But while it’s become less common in recent years, and still varies by location, a medical expert can also be called to testify at a hearing.
A medical expert is either a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist not employed by the Social Security Administration who gives an opinion about the claimant’s impairments.
The medical expert may testify that the claimant meets or equals what Social Security calls “listings,” several dozen impairments that automatically qualify a claimant for disability.
The medical expert may also testify that while the claimant does not meet or equal a listing, he or she has limitations that would make the claimant unemployable.
Whether a medical expert testifies at a hearing is up to an administrative law judge. Some judges will have medical experts at every hearing. Occasionally, they’ll even ask two or three medial experts to testify about every physical and psychological impairment that a claimant alleges.
Other judges will only call medical experts to testify in certain cases where it appears an individual is close to equaling a listing.
Sometimes, a judge will write to a medical expert after a hearing to get their opinion about a case. Most judges rarely or never use a medical expert.
Having a medical expert testify is generally beneficial to claimants, particularly in cases where a claimant is under 50 and meeting or eating a listing is the easiest way to prove disability.
Even if the medical expert does not initially say a claimant meets or equals a listing, an attorney may be able to point out things in the medical evidence or ask other questions to get the expert to change their testimony, which is why it’s so important to have representation at a disability hearing.