Why the Daubert Standard Does Not Apply in Social Security Disability Hearings
In Richardson v. Perales, the Supreme Court considered whether the requirements of expert testimony as outlined in Rule 702 applied to experts testifying at Social Security disability hearings.
In Richardson, the Court determined that Rule 702 and its requirements do not govern the admissibility of evidence in disability hearings. Furthermore, under 42 U.S.C. § 405(b)(1) and 20 C.F.R. § 404.950(c), it is clear that Rule 702, and thus Daubert's interpretation of Rule 702 criteria, does not apply to the admission of evidence in Social Security disability hearings.
As mentioned above, the reason for this approach is described by the Richardson Court: the "strict rules of evidence, applicable in the courtroom, are not to operate at social security hearings so as to bar the admission of evidence otherwise pertinent[.]"
The Richardson Court held that evidence that would be inadmissible in a court proceeding could nonetheless constitute substantial evidence supporting a Social Security disability determination. The Court reasoned that with regard to Social Security disability proceedings, "[t]here emerges an emphasis upon the informal rather than the formal."
The Richardson Court emphasized that the Social Security disability proceeding should be comprehensible to a layman claimant and that the proceeding "should be liberal and not strict in tone and operation." This informal evidentiary approach continued as Daubert's interpretation of Rule 702 and Daubert criteria was used in traditional courtrooms and federal agency hearings.
Additionally, in Social Security disability proceedings, unlike in traditional proceedings, the VE's recognized expertise provides the necessary foundation for his or her testimony; no other requirements exist to establish additional foundation for the testimony. Because Daubert and Rule 702 do not apply to Social Security disability hearings, the SSA correspondingly enacted only a minimal standard for VE testimony, so as to afford the claimant a fair and just hearing.