Vocational Expert Testimony
If you do not agree with a decision reached by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or want to dispute a denied claim for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, you have the right to appeal by requesting a reconsideration. If this reconsideration is denied, the next step in the appeal process is to request a hearing that will be overseen by an administrative law judge (ALJ).
Disability hearings are a critical step in the Social Security disability appeals process, and they require thorough preparation and work in order to be effectively navigated. This includes having the administrative law judge review your claim for SSD benefits and any new information or medical documentation you have provided about your disability.
During the disability hearing, the administrative law judge will gain a better understanding of your disability and how it impacts your life and ability to work through questioning. In addition, the Social Security Administration will likely call an expert witness to testify at your disability hearing. This vocational expert, or VE, is an expert on employment and disability, as well as the types of jobs you may be able to perform local to where you live.
At Shook & Stone, we want to remind individuals who need to secure SSD benefits that disability hearings, although backlogged, provide a stronger opportunity for securing benefits than other stages of the appeals process, according to statistics. As such, we ensure our clients’ concerns are fully addressed prior to disability hearings and that they are prepared to answer any and all questions that come their way.
VE’s Role at a Disability hearing.
To further ease client concerns, we also explain the role of a vocational expert, who has a few primary functions during a disability hearing:
- Classify all employment you have engaged in within the past 15 years; and
- Identify possible employment that might be available to someone with the limitations classified by the administrative law judge.
- Answer questions from an administrative law judge or claimant’s attorney regarding the duties and demands required by a particular job.
The vocational expert’s role does not end with classifying and identifying available employment. They are also expected to provide detailed answers regarding the duties and demands associated with a particular job, such as physical requirements and the skills necessary to perform the job. This can be invaluable in helping an administrative law judge make an informed decision about a claimant’s disability status.
Importance of Vocational Expert Testimony
The vocational expert’s testimony is based on their experience and research and statistics compiled by the Social Security Administration, Department of Labor, and other agencies. Their testimony may consist of specific terminology and regulatory codes that you may not be familiar with.
The VE’s testimony is used by the ALJ to assess the impact of your disability on your ability to work. The expert will also provide information about how many jobs are available in which you may be able to perform, or what types of employment you may qualify for with restrictions. This testimony is particularly important because it can help prove that you cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity ( SGA) due to your impairment.
How the Vocational Expert Assesses Your Prior Jobs?
When discussing your work history, a vocational expert will classify any work you have performed in that last 15 years according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), an SSA resource that describes all types of occupations and provides them with a 9 digit code.
Hypothetical questions may then be posed by the administrative law judge, which can followed by more hypothetical questions from your attorney. These questions are posed to the vocational expert in a way that does not necessarily name you, but rather a person who has performed the same type of work as you and who suffers from a disability would be able to find and maintain gainful employment.
It is important to understand that while the vocational expert’s testimony is important and should be diligently prepared for, they do not decide the ultimate outcome of your case. An administrative law judge will still be tasked with reviewing the totality of information, evidence, and testimony in your claim before arriving at a decision.
Still, because cross-examining a vocational expert and handling their statements during the hearing is important, you want to be sure that you have experienced disability lawyers by your side.