Why is a Vocational Expert at my Social Security Disability Hearing?

SSD Benefits
Mooney & Associates representing social security clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland

So why is a Vocational Expert at my social security hearing?  When you go to a Social Security Disability hearing, in most normal circumstances, besides myself and you, also in the hearing room is the Judge, a Court Reporter, who records all testimony, and a Vocational Expert.  A what?

Purpose of a Vocational Expert

A Vocational Expert (here in referred to as the ‘VE’) is called by the Social Security Administration to be an expert in your hearing.  There are several purposes for a VE.

First, the VE helps the Judge classify your past relevant work.  That is specifically work you have performed over the past 15 years.  It is important to classify it correctly.  The work you performed  will be classified not only as ‘customarily’ performed, but also as ACTUALLY performed.  For example, a job you may have performed in the past may be classified as Light work, but you may have actually performed the job as medium, depending on how heavy you had to perform the job.  That classification can be critical.  I can of course help solidify proper classification.

Second, the VE will testify to job availability within the national and regional economies.  That is based on jobs identified through the hypothetical process, which I explain below.

Third, the VE will testify to skills required in jobs, such as skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled.  Again, this is important in your case and may have significant ramifications to getting awarded benefits.  There are Federal regulations that can possibly ‘grid you in’ for benefits.  Proper classifications are important.

Finally, the VE will testify to the type of jobs, if any, within your physical or mental impairments, that you may be able to perform.

Hypothetical Process

The VE is also present to go through the Hypothetical process with the Judge.  The Judge will ask the VE a series of questions, called hypotheticals, based on your documented impairments. The first question usually asked by the ALJ is whether someone with your documented impairments could still perform your past relevant work.  If the VE thinks you can still perform your past work, the Judge will deny your claim, unless of course, you have an Attorney who can poke holes in that VE testimony.

If you can’t perform past relevant work, the Judge then moves on to more hypotheticals to see if you can do any other jobs.  The VE will testify as to what jobs, if any, a hypothetical person, with limitations like your documented impairments, could perform. If the VE does identify jobs  within your hypothetical impairments, the VE will identify the job, provide job codes, provide number of jobs within the national and regional economies.  After that, the Judge may or may not pose additional hypotheticals with additional restrictions.

Cross Examination of the VE

Cross examination of the VE is extremely critical for your case.  First, your Attorney can try and rule out jobs identified by providing additional hypotheticals and adding to the Judge’s hypotheticals, based on additional documented impairments and based on your testimony of your limitations.  This can also be critical for the process of potentially appealing the Judge’s decision.   Second, your Attorney may be able to attack the jobs identified and the realities of the availability of those jobs within the national and regional economies.  Third, your Attorney can also attack identified jobs based on responsibilities and job requirements that may be outside your limitations.

Cross examination of a VE can be one of the most critical components of your case.    That is why it is vital that you have an experienced Social Security Disability attorney representing you.  Mooney & Associates has broad experience with Social Security Disability hearings and we enjoy a high success rate.

It costs you nothing to discuss your case with one of our Disability Attorneys.  We offer FREE CONSULTATIONS and have 14 convenient offices to meet you.  Additionally, we can also do telephone intakes.  We represent disabled clients throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland.  If you live in Central Pennsylvania, your hearing location will most likely be in Harrisburg.   Call today at 717-200-HELP or toll free at 1-877-632-4656.  By way of email, you can contact me direct through contact information  this site.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.