“No news is good news.” That is the situation when an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) fails to notify a Social Security Disability applicant about a response to interrogatories that the ALJ sent to a medical expert (ME”).
I represent a 59 year old assistant factory manager with neck and back problems, whose hearing was scheduled for next Monday, today being a Friday. On August 23, 2013, the ALJ sent interrogatories to an ME without notifying me or the claimant. I learned about the interrogatories while preparing for the hearing. I checked about a week later, and no responses were in the claimant’s efolder.
I had a similar situation last year with a different ALJ, and the day before the hearing the hearing assistant called my office to say the case was being granted. Not being provided with a copy of the interrogatory responses meant one of two things. Either the interrogatory responses supported a fully favorable decision, or the ALJ violated the procedural rules in the “HALLEX” that would provide concrete grounds for an appeal.
As noted above, the ALJ’s assistant notified us that she was approving SSD benefits and cancelling the hearing. Having seen that there were no interrogatory answers in the efolder, that news came as no surprise.