What A Vocational Expert Is And Why They Matter For Your SSDI or SSI Disability Hearing

Vocational Experts and Your Mass

If you have a Social Security disability hearing coming up, a vocational expert witness will likely be hired by the agency to give testimony at the hearing. But what exactly is a vocational expert and what impact does their testimony have on your case?

Vocational Experts and Your Massachusetts SSA Disability Hearing

What is a Vocational Expert?

A vocational expert (VE) is a person who the Social Security Administration recognizes as an authority in the areas of vocational rehabilitation and training, with extensive knowledge of the duties, tasks, education and skills necessary to perform various jobs. They are often experienced private vocational rehabilitation counselors. The VE does not know anything about your medical history, they have not read your medical records. They are there as an impartial witness giving answers to only the hypothetical questions about employment posed to them.

A vocational expert is called to testify at hearings about various aspects of your past work history and other work in the local and national economy, including availability and the skills necessary to perform such jobs. Vocational experts are called to testify at the majority of disability hearings, so you are likely to have one present when your case is heard. The judge presiding over your case will have the VE tell them whether a hypothetical person with your disabilities and related limitations would be able to perform your past relevant work, as well as what other jobs this person could perform (if any). 

The VE’s opinion is very important because their testimony heavily influences the outcome of the case.

What Will a VE Do at a Massachusetts SSDI or SSI Disability Hearing?

At your hearing, you will be called to testify about your work history, daily activities, and disabling medical conditions. You will specifically have to answer questions about your past work, such as duties, tasks, and any special training you may have had.

After you have finished testifying, the judge will then call on the VE to testify as to various factors regarding your past work, including the relevant skill and exertional requirements of each job, and to list the job codes, all according to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).  

After this, the judge and your attorney will ask the VE a series of hypothetical questions describing a person with various levels of physical and or mental health related limitations (taken from information in your medical records and or your testimony), including whether such a person could still work at your past jobs. If the VE believes that such a person is not precluded by these limitations from performing your past work your claim will likely be denied. 

If the VE does not think such a person could still perform the required duties or tasks of your past work, the judge and attorney will ask further hypothetical questions. For instance, the judge will usually then ask what other jobs, if any, someone of your age and education level and with your work history, with specific physical and or mental health related limitations, can perform. The VE will answer these hypothetical questions, testifying as to what jobs, if any, such a worker could perform, and the applicable job titles, DOT codes and availability in the local and national economy. 

To sum it all up, with some technical limitations based on various factors such as age and education, if the VE believes that there are jobs that such a person can still perform despite their limitations, whether the same as your past work, or other work, your claim will most likely be denied.

Cross-Examination of the VE at an SSDI or SSI Hearing

After the VE’s testimony, your lawyer can ask further questions during cross-examination and try to have the VE disqualify some jobs they had testified that a hypothetical worker could still do. Often, your lawyer will do this by asking about some of your limitations that the judge did not include in their hypothetical questions. Ultimately, the goal is to have the VE admit that there are no jobs available that you can perform.

The cross-examination of the vocational expert is possibly the most important part of your SSDI or SSI disability hearing. If your lawyer does not challenge the VE’s answers about what jobs you can perform, your claim will probably be denied. You are statistically more likely to lose your case if a VE is at your hearing, so you need an expert lawyer to cross-examine them and win your case.

Get a Free Consultation For Your SSDI or SSI Case

If you have a Social Security disability claim, you need an experienced, compassionate attorney to help you navigate the disability hearing process in Massachusetts or Rhode Island. Attorney Sara J. Frankel used to work for the Social Security Administration, so she knows the law from an inside perspective, and will fight to get you the benefits that you deserve. 

The consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose. Give her a call today.