Thursday, August 17, 2017

SSA Medical Experts

When an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) schedules a hearing for a Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claimant, a medical expert (“ME”) may be asked to testify. 

According to the case law, an ME’s job is “to explain complex medical problems in terms understandable to lay examiners, not to assess plaintiff's impairments.” Nonetheless, ALJ’s almost always ask the ME for an assessment of the claimant’s restrictions and limitations, which more often than not, support the ability to work on a full time basis. Consequently, the credentials of the assigned ME should be investigated promptly in order to prepare for the ME’s cross-examination. 

I represent a 49 year old former nurse with fibromyalgia and arthritis, whose SSD application was remanded by the Appeals Council for a new hearing for a vocational expert (“VE”). On remand, the ALJ held a hearing with a VE. Afterwards, the ALJ submitted interrogatories to an ME, named Gerald Galst. I advised the ALJ that unless he was prepared to issue a fully favorable decision, then I wanted a supplemental hearing to cross examine the ME. 

I investigated ME Galst’s background, and submitted information from about ten websites where he was referred to as a cardiologist, which I used for the cross examination. After using a few of the exhibits, and Galst admitting that he was a cardiologist, that he didn’t treat fibromyalgia or arthritis, the ALJ went off the record and stated that he agreed the claimant should be found disabled. 

By making it clear that the ME was a cardiologist, and did not practice as an internist, it would have been extremely difficult for the ALJ to accept the ME’s opinion over the opinion of the treating rheumatologist.

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