Opinion analysis: Court rejects per se rule on cross-examination in Social Security disability cases

The Supreme Court yesterday turned down a Social Security Disability Insurance plaintiff’s proposal to establish a per se rule effectively requiring vocational experts to turn over the data underlying their opinions in every case. Michael Biestek had asked the court to decide that testimony from such an expert who declined a request to turn over underlying data could never suffice to meet the Social Security Administration’s statutory obligation to support its decisions with “substantial evidence.” The court took great pains to emphasize that it was not holding that testimony unsupported by data would suffice in any particular class of cases, or even in Biestek’s own case. The effect of this 6-3 decision by Justice Elena Kagan therefore is likely to be quite limited. When an individual applies for disability benefits from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, the SSA first seeks to determine whether the claimant is either obviously…

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