Vocational Expert

A vocational expert plays a significant role in a Social Security disability hearing. A vocational expert is an expert witness who knows about job availability in the current labor market as well as the skills that are needed to perform specific jobs. At a disability hearing, the Social Security Administration (SSA) often calls on vocational experts to testify. 

What Is A Vocational Expert In A Disability Hearing 

There are several different professionals involved in a disability hearing. One of the most important is the vocational expert. A vocational expert is someone whose job is to study all the evidence that you have presented with your application to determine if you are capable of doing any kind of work or not. 
When the vocational expert is looking at all the documents you have presented, they will look at several different factors to make their determination about your ability to work. Some of the things that they consider when they make this decision are:

  • Your age.
  • How long you’ve been doing your current job. 
  • Whether or not you can perform your current job duties with your disability. 
  • If you have experience doing other kinds of work that you could do with your disability.
  • Your education and training.
  • Whether or not there’s any other kind of work that you could do with the limitations that you have which are caused by your illness or injury.
  • Any transferable skills that you have. 

The vocational expert will also look at your medical records, statements from past employers, statements from psychologists, and any other documents that you’ve submitted. Having an RFC form from your doctor can really help your claim because the RFC form explains in detail how your condition limits your ability to do your job. A vocational expert will look closely at the RFC form to find out what exact tasks related your job you’re not able to do because of the illness or condition that you have. 

How a Vocational Expert Impacts the Social Security Disability Process

The final step in a disability claim is the hearing before an administrative law judge. After two denials, you can request a hearing for the judge to decide on your case. A vocational expert may be asked to be at the hearing. Responding to questions asked by the administrative law judge, the vocational expert will give his or her opinion. The expert will discuss what jobs he or she believes you can perform considering your limitations. The testimony of the vocational expert usually determines the outcome of your disability case, so it plays a detrimental role in your disability hearing.

Based on the medical records provided and the limitations specified, the vocational expert may indicate that there are no jobs whatsoever you can perform. A vocational expert’s testimony can either make or break a disability case. Using a series of questions, which are called hypotheticals, your lawyer and the judge will gather the evidence needed to determine if you do meet the requirements set forth to be determined disabled per the SSA guidelines. If you are unable to do any kind of work, a vocational expert can help you win your benefits claim.

How the Vocational Expert Can Impact Your Disability Claim

At the disability hearing before the administrative law judge, you will be asked questions by the judge and your attorney about your disability as well as your work history. The vocational expert will listen to your responses and classify each of your prior jobs.

The vocational expert will indicate whether you can perform any of those past jobs and if you are unable to do that kind of work, which skills you have that can be transferred. Your attorney and the administrative law judge will ask the vocational expert a serious of questions that are based on your documented conditions and impairments. This usually starts out by determining if you can still do your most recent kind of work. If the vocational expert believes you can still do that work, your claim will be denied by the judge.

If the vocational expert tells the judge that you cannot do your past work, the judge and your attorney will ask more questions of the vocational expert to determine if you can do any other kind of work. As an example, the judge may ask, “What jobs, if any, could an individual of the same age, educational level, and work history as the claimant do if she or he could stand no more than an hour, cannot bend or kneel, cannot sit for more than an hour, and cannot lift more than 10 pounds regularly?”

At that point, the vocational expert will testify as to what jobs, if there are any, that a claimant with those work-related limitations can do. If vocational expert believes that there are jobs that the claimant can do, then those job titles, codes, and the number of those jobs in your specific residential area will be stated. If the vocational expert testifies that there are jobs that someone with your impairments can still do, your disability claim will be denied.

How to Get Help in Regards to Understanding More About a Vocational Expert

If you would like to learn more about a vocational expert and how they can impact your disability claim, you can consult with a disability attorney or talk with your physician. Either one should be able to assess your condition and determine what jobs a vocational expert may be able to determine you could perform. By assessing your limitations and abilities before a hearing, you will be better prepared to respond to the questions asked by the administrative law judge and what to expect from the vocational expert during the hearing.

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