I-2-5-42.Obtaining Medical Expert Opinion Through Interrogatories

Last Update: 11/3/10 (Transmittal I-2-79)

A. General

Live testimony in person, by videoconference or telephone conference with opportunity to question the Medical Expert (ME) is the preferred method for obtaining ME opinion, but written interrogatories may be used. Written interrogatories are often used when an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) receives posthearing evidence, but can be used at other times in the hearing process. The claimant or representative may ask the ALJ to obtain interrogatories, or the ALJ may decide to use them on his or her own initiative.

NOTE:

Attorney Adjudicators (AA) and hearing office (HO) staff (with the authority to issue interrogatories in cases not yet assigned to an ALJ under the direction of the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ)) may also use written interrogatories on their own initiative. (See Chief Judge Bulletin 08-03. Screening Cases That May Meet the Disability Requirements Through the Use of Pre-hearing Interrogatories.)

B. Preparing Interrogatories

When preparing interrogatories, the ALJ must:

  • phrase each question in a way that will not suggest any specific conclusion, but will elicit a clear and complete response that can ultimately be expressed (to the extent possible) in lay terms (See I-2-5-93, Sample-Interrogatories to Medical Expert.); and

  • leave sufficient space between the questions for the answers.

C. Sending the Interrogatories to the ME

1. Initial Transmission of Interrogatories to the ME

The ALJ will send the interrogatories to the ME along with the following:

  1. A letter explaining the request and the requested method of response. (See I-2-5-95 Sample-Letter to Expert Witness-Written Interrogatories)

    • Include all identifying information in the letter.

    • Request a response within 10 calendar days.

    • Mark one copy of the letter as an exhibit and place it in the CF.

    • Place a copy of the letter in the HO file.

  2. For a Certified Electronic Case, create a CD of the exhibit list and send it with the interrogatory.

  3. For a paper case, send a copy of the exhibit list; Open DGS; click on the “Exhibit Menu” from the tool bar; select “Exhibit Dir”. Enter the SSN to find the Exhibit List being sent; and

    • Photocopies of the pertinent evidence, arranged in chronological order.

    • A copy of the ME's professional qualifications for verification.

    NOTE:

    Do not include the professional qualifications of any other sources.

  4. A transcript or summary of any pertinent testimony provided in an earlier hearing.

  5. A statement of the issues in the case.

  6. A Contractor's Invoice created in WebBass for signature by the ME. The contractor's invoice, HA-590, can also be accessed through the Document Generation System (DGS). Go to DGS, click on the tab “Contractor's Invoice.”

    NOTE:

    If the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) does not have a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with the ME, provide any pertinent ME orientation materials available, and use Optional Form 347 (Order for Supplies or Services) to obtain payment.

  7. The name and telephone number of an HO contact person.

  8. A self-addressed, postage paid envelope large enough for the ME to return all enclosures and responses to the interrogatories.

    NOTE:

    After the ME responds to the initial transmission of interrogatories, a copy of the response will be sent to the claimant and representative and will be included in the record as an Exhibit. The claimant and representative may request that the ALJ allow additional interrogatories be submitted to the ME or that a supplemental hearing be held to question the ME if the answers to the interrogatories are unfavorable to the claimant.

2. Subsequent Transmission of Interrogatories to an ME

When an ALJ receives new evidence after an ME has provided testimony or responded to interrogatories, and decides to forward the new evidence to the ME for review with interrogatories to determine if it affects the prior testimony or response, the ALJ must:

  1. Send the interrogatories to the ME with:

    • A letter explaining the request and the requested method of response (See I-2-5-96 Sample-Transmittal Letter to Expert Witness — Evidence Received After Interrogatories. Include all identifying information in the letter and request a response within 10 days.);

    • A photocopy of the new evidence;

    • Copies of the evidentiary documents the ME previously reviewed if they were not maintained by the ME at the request of the ALJ for possible further proceeding; and

    • The name and telephone number of an HO contact.

  2. Distribute the letter as follows:

    • Send the original to the ME;

    • Send copies to the claimant and the representative;

    • Mark one copy of the letter as an exhibit and place it in the CF; and

    • Place a copy in the HO file.

  3. Diary the case for the requested response date and make the appropriate follow-up contacts.

NOTE:

After the ME responds to the subsequent transmission of interrogatories, a copy of the response will be sent to the claimant and representative and will be included in the record as an Exhibit. The claimant and representative may request that the ALJ allow additional interrogatories be submitted to the ME or that a supplemental hearing be held to question the ME if the answers to the interrogatories are unfavorable to the claimant.