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

Last Update: 1/21/20 (Transmittal I-2-232)

A. General

An administrative law judge (ALJ) can obtain medical expert (ME) testimony by video teleconference, telephone, or in limited circumstances described in 20 CFR 404.936(c)(4) and 416.1436(c)(4), in person. These methods provide the ALJ, claimant, or appointed representative, if any, the opportunity to question the ME at the time testimony is given. However, an ALJ can also obtain ME testimony through written interrogatories.

Interrogatories are often used when an ALJ receives post-hearing evidence that requires further review because it appears the additional evidence may affect the outcome of the case. However, an ALJ can use interrogatories at any time in the hearing process. The ALJ may obtain interrogatories at the request of the claimant or representative, or on his or her own initiative.


Under the direction of management, certain attorney adjudicators or designated hearing office (HO) staff may also request written interrogatories on their own initiative when a case has not yet been assigned to an ALJ. See Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-5-29 for more information about proffering prehearing interrogatories.

B. Preparing Interrogatories

When preparing interrogatories, the ALJ will:

  • Phrase questions in a way that does not direct or suggest a specific conclusion;

  • Ask questions that will elicit a clear and complete response that will, as much as possible, be expressed in terms the claimant will understand (see HALLEX I-2-5-93 for instructions on how to access sample interrogatories); and

  • Leave sufficient space between the questions for the ME to answer the questions.

C. Sending the Interrogatories to the ME

1. Information to Send With Initial Interrogatories

Assisting HO staff will send the interrogatories to the ME along with a letter explaining the request and the requested method of response. For instructions on how to access a sample letter, see HALLEX I-2-5-95. The letter must clearly identify the claimant and indicate that the ME should respond within 10 calendar days. Staff will also add a copy of the letter to the E section of the claim(s) file and exhibit the letter.

Additionally, assisting HO staff will send the following with the letter:

  • For an electronic claim(s) file, a compact disc (CD) of the exhibit list, or, for a paper claim(s) file, a copy of the exhibit list;

  • CD copies or photocopies of the pertinent evidence, arranged in chronological order;

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

  • A transcript or summary of pertinent testimony provided at a hearing (if applicable);

  • A statement of the issues in the case;

  • A contractor's invoice for signature by the ME, or, if the Office of Hearings Operations does not have a blanket purchase agreement with the ME, optional Form 347 (Order for Supplies or Services);

  • The name and telephone number of an HO contact person; and

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

2. Response to Interrogatories

When the ME responds, the ALJ must proffer the response to the claimant and representative, if any. For instructions on proffer of the ME's response and receipt of additional information after the ME responds to interrogatories, see HALLEX I-2-5-44.