At your Disability hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may request the testimony of a medical expert. A medical expert is a doctor or other medical professional who will give an impartial opinion on the case being heard. It cannot be anyone familiar with the case, or a treating doctor. For more details about the qualifications of a medical expert, see the Social Security’s operating guide. The medical expert will review relevant medical records, and be subject to questions about the various diagnoses, treatment, prognoses, and functional limitations. The ALJ will also ask whether the conditions presented meet or equal any of the Listings of Impairments, which could mean an easier path to getting your disability approved.
Your Social Security Disability attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the medical expert as part of your hearing. Your attorney can ask about the expert credentials, and what experience they have in cases similar to yours. They may also ask about specific symptoms and limitations, and whether your conditions may meet specific listings.
The medical expert is not a treating doctor, and they will not be asked to examine you. They only consult your medical records. They will not be consulted about your work history, and they do not have the final say in whether or not you are disabled!
In some cases, an ALJ will ask for medical expert testimony after the hearing. Usually this is elicited in written interrogatories, where the ALJ or your attorney may write questions for the expert to answer. After the interrogatories are received, the ALJ will either make a decision or schedule a supplemental hearing to get more testimony from the claimant. If new records are received after the interrogatories are provided, then the ALJ can forward the new evidence to the expert to get any additional comments.
Having a medical expert can be a great help to your case, for your attorney, and for the ALJ. They can usually help explain more complicated medical records, which can improve their understanding of your case and could lead to a favorable decision. If the expert finds your condition to meet a Listing or that the symptoms would be so severe as to affect your daily functioning, the ALJ can use the expert’s opinion and find you disabled.