When attending a Social Security disability hearing, you most likely will see or hear testimony from a Vocational Expert (VE), also known as a Job Expert. The Social Security Administration (SSA) employs Vocational Experts to testify about the classification of work you have performed in the past and to answer hypothetical questions from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as to what occupations can be performed with various physical or mental restrictions.
A VE can testify by telephone or in person. Their background usually consists of placing individuals in the job market through various means, such as vocational rehabilitation. Usually at the end of your Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing, the ALJ will pose hypotheticals or examples to the VE. The ALJ will usually ask the VE what jobs are available to an individual based on their age, education, and past work experience with certain workplace restrictions the ALJ thinks may be applicable to each individual claimant. Many ALJs will ask numerous hypotheticals. This gives the ALJ the opportunity to later decide which hypothetical he or she will use for each individual claimant’s decision. Your attorney/representative will have the opportunity to cross-examine the VE after the ALJ is done.
The Vocational Expert will advise the ALJ as to the description and number of jobs in the local and/or national economies. I have found many of my clients have difficulty understanding the role of the VE. It is important to note that when an ALJ asks examples where there are jobs in the economy that can be performed, it does not always mean you have lost your case. I tell my clients that they should continue to listen because many ALJs work their way through various hypotheticals until no jobs are available for the claimant. This is the procedure most Judges follow.
This process can be confusing if you are not familiar with the Social Security Disability process. I encourage you to ask questions of your attorney or representative to provide clarity of the role of your Vocational Expert at your Social Security disability hearing. While it is only a part of your hearing, it can be important to prove you are unable to work in a competitive economy.
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Author: Scott Lewis