Supreme Court to hear case on expert testimony

Expert testimony can have a major impact on disability benefits cases for people in Indiana and across the country. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case on whether experts need to provide evidence and data to back up their assertions about a disabled person's ability to work during a benefits hearing. The nation's highest court will hear a case brought by a former carpenter and construction laborer who applied for disability in 2009, citing his depression, Hepatitis C and degenerative disc disease.

In 2010, shortly after submitting his initial application for Social Security Disability benefits, the man's application was denied, and he went through the Social Security Administration's appeals process. Even at the hearing stage, his application for disability benefits was denied. After that denial, he appealed the result to a federal district court, which sent the case back for further processing, noting that medical expert testimony had not been obtained.

In a new hearing for disability benefits, the man was ruled eligible for benefits but with a disability onset date of 2013 rather than 2009. During the hearing, a vocational expert testified that the man could find jobs based on his ability to sometimes lift up to 10 pounds of weight. The man sought to compel the expert to provide data to back up her assertions, but she refused and the administrative law judge in the case refused to require it to be provided. The man continued to take his appeals up through the court system, and now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

Expert testimony can be important in disability hearings after an initial denial of an application for Social Security Disability benefits. Indianapolis, Indiana, attorneys handling social security disability may be able to help applicants to present a strong case, including expert testimony of their own, that illustrates clearly the effects that their disabilities have had on their working lives.

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