When an individual is required to attend a Social Security Disability hearing in order to appeal the SSA’s decision to deny their Social Security Disability claim, it is not uncommon for a medical expert (or ME) to be called in to testify regarding the claimant’s case and condition.
A medical expert is rarely the claimant’s treating physician and these professionals do not usually work for the Social Security Administration. Many people confuse the role of a medical expert with that of the doctor they see during a consultative examination. The two are not one in the same and they play very different roles.
Sometimes an applicant’s lawyer will retain a medical expert to testify on the applicant’s behalf. Sometimes a judge will call on a medical expert in order to help determine a case. The purpose of a medical expert testifying at an applicant’s Social Security Disability hearing is to establish the extent of the applicant’s limitations and whether or not those limitations qualify the individual for Social Security Disability benefits.
When a medical expert attends a disability hearing, that expert can establish the severity of the applicant’s impairment and can determine whether or not the impairment meets (or is equal to) a listing that has been included in the SSA’s Blue Book of qualifying medical conditions. If a medical expert testifies that an applicant’s condition does meet these requirements, it is likely that the hearing will be decided in the favor of the disability applicant.
In addition to establishing eligibility, a medical expert may also be able to help establish an applicant’s onset date, which is important since the onset date will determine whether or not back pay is warranted and, if so, how much back pay a claimant is entitled to. For example, if the medical expert testifies that the applicant has been disabled for a period of two years as of the date of the hearing, that applicant may then be entitled to two years of back pay from the Social Security Administration.